[Review] "The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection" Brings Four Iconic Suspense Films to 4K

The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, made a career and a lifetime of playing with his audiences’ emotions, from his long-running television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents to his dozens of feature films. Earlier this fall, Universal Home Entertainment compiled four of Hitchcock’s all-time classics, Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds, spanning arguably the most successful decade of the director’s stories career. In doing so, the films have been brought up from the Blu-Ray standard 1080p to a 4K resolution of 2160p for the first time ever, allowing these cinematic gems to shine brighter than ever before.

The best part? You don’t have to choose between one or the other, as both the 4K Blu-Ray and standard Blu-Ray are included for each film, making for eight total discs. Add to this digital copies of all four films, at a price point around $70 USD, depending on where you’re shopping from, that’s a damn steal. It may make one feel like they’re getting away with murder. Don’t worry, we all go a little mad sometimes, after all.

As if that wasn’t enough, Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho now has a special uncut version, restoring four minutes of previously unreleased footage, giving fans the full experience sixty years after the original film horrified moviegoers for the first time. Add to this hours upon hours of special features and commentaries, and this collection makes a strong case for being the definitive release of one of the most important directors in not just horror history, but all of film history.

What exactly is different about the uncut version? You could make the argument that the biggest differences come in the infamous shower scene, when Marion Crane bites it in one of the most talked about and dissected scenes in all of film. This scene famously had the piss taken out of it for being too shocking or excessive for its time, and in the uncut version, you could see that there’s more skin visible in certain cuts. If you’ve come expecting a nip slip from Janet Leigh, first off, ew, and second off, you’re not getting it. True to the old story and the recreation from the biopic Hitchcock, Hitch was precise in shooting this scene, and even in the uncut version, the original poster’s promise of no on-screen violence or nudity remains true. Even in its original form, this scene hits on the censorship of horror, an issue that has plagued many films since this shocker.

With this in mind, I’m electing not to waste time reviewing or breaking down each individual film. Even the newest of these films is older than my own mother, so if you haven’t seen any of them, do yourself and the world a favor and fix that. Hell, even Vertigo, my least favorite of the four here, was a bonafide classic, a sweeping romance forged in forbidden love and duty. Rear Window stands up as a slow-burn, tension-mounting thriller right up until its stunning final confrontation. Psycho is still one of the defining motion pictures in all of horror history, and aside from the visual treat the remaster grants us, Bernard Herrmann’s score sounds sharper and cleaner than ever before. The Birds, widely considered to be Hitchcock’s monster movie, still is a feast on the eyes after all these years, and feels like a film that could conceivably happen, especially in this roulette table of a year known as 2020.

Of course, bringing every single thing up to 1080p or 2160p, for the Blu-Ray and 4K, respectively, means that some of the minute imperfections come through or translate as well in higher definitions. A couple of the “don’t look down” sequences in the first two films see their special effects exposed a bit, but not to the point where a viewer gets taken out of the film by any means. While the hallucination sequence in Vertigo looks even better, one of the climactic scenes gets overexposed to the point of unease. There is no such thing as a perfect transfer, sure, but these are a couple of instances where age does not do the remasters justice, or vice versa, for that matter. Perhaps it sounds like I’m nitpicking here, but the iconic scenes from these films, including the eye gouging aftermath in The Birds, the aforementioned psychedelic scene in Vertigo, and of course that damn shower scene in Psycho all look incredible in these new remastered versions.

Going back to the subject of added value, the special features for the box set are as follows:

Rear Window Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Hitchcock’s Rear Window: The Well-Made Film author John Fawell

  • Rear Window Ethics – 2000 documentary

  • Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes

  • Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of The Master

  • Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock

  • Masters of Cinema

  • Hitchcock/Truffaut – Audio recording from filmmaker François Truffaut’s in-depth interview with director Alfred Hitchcock about Rear Window

  • Production photo gallery

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Re-release trailer narrated by James Stewart

Vertigo Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by filmmaker William Friedkin (The Exorcist)

  • Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece

  • Partners In Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborators

  • Saul Bass: Title Champ

  • Edith Head: Dressing the Master’s Movies

  • Bernard Herrmann: Hitchcock’s Maestro

  • Alma: The Master’s Muse

  • Foreign censorship ending

  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era

  • Hitchcock/Truffaut – Audio recording from filmmaker François Truffaut’s in-depth interview with director Alfred Hitchcock about Vertigo

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Restoration theatrical trailer

Psycho Bonus Features:

  • Original uncut and standard re-releases version of the film

  • The Making of Psycho

  • The Making of Psycho audio commentary with Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho author Stephen Rebello

  • Psycho Sound

  • In The Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy

  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho

  • The Shower Scene: With and Without Music

  • The Shower Sequence: Storyboards by Saul Bass

  • The Psycho Archives

  • Hitchcock/Truffaut – Audio recording from filmmaker François Truffaut’s in-depth interview with director Alfred Hitchcock about Psycho

  • Posters and ad gallery

  • Lobby card gallery

  • Behind-the-scenes photo gallery

  • Production photo gallery

  • Psycho theatrical trailers

  • Psycho re-release trailer

The Birds Bonus Features:

  • The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie

  • All About The Birds

  • Original ending

  • Deleted scene

  • Tippi Hedren’s screen test

  • The Birds is coming (Universal International Newsreel)

  • Suspense Story: National Press Club hears Hitchcock (Universal International Newsreel)

  • 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics

  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lot

  • Hitchcock/Truffaut – Audio recording from filmmaker François Truffaut’s in-depth interview with director Alfred Hitchcock about The Birds

  • Theatrical trailer

If you’re not sold on this box set by now, you’re not going to be. Period. End of discussion. This is an essential piece of a cinephile collection. Is it a complete compilation? No, but hopefully that will be coming sooner rather than later. But for the watershed period of the career of the Master of Suspense, accept no substitute.

The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection is available now via Universal Home Entertainment.


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