, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. Criterion began with a mission to pull the treasures of world cinema out of the film vaults and put them in the hands of collectors. All of the films published under the Criterion banner represent cinema at its finest. In their seventeen years, we've seen a lot of things change, but one thing has remained constant: Criterion's commitment to publishing the defining moments of cinema in the world's best digital editions.
The foundation of the collection is the work of such masters of cinema as Renoir, Godard, Kurosawa, Cocteau, Fellini, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, Fuller, Lean, Kubrick, Lang, Sturges, Dreyer, Eisenstein, Ozu, Sirk, Buñuel, Powell and Pressburger. Each film is presented uncut, in its original aspect ratio, as its maker intended it to be seen. For every disc, Criterion tracks down the best available film elements in the world, use state-of-the-art telecine equipment and a select few colorists capable of meeting their rigorous standards, and take time during the film-to-video digital transfer to create the most pristine possible image and sound. Whenever possible, they work with directors and cinematographers to assure that the look of their releases does justice to their intentions. Criterion's supplements enable viewers to appreciate Criterion films in context, through audio commentaries by filmmakers and scholars, restored director's cuts, deleted scenes, documentaries, shooting scripts, early shorts, and storyboards. To date, more than 35 filmmakers have made Criterion's Director Approved library of laserdiscs and DVDs the most significant archive of contemporary filmmaking available to the home viewer.
"Some films are slices of life. Mine are slices of cake... After all, what is drama but life with the dull bits cut out." - Alfred Hitchcock.
The directorial career of "Master of Suspense" Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most illustrious in the history of cinema. A supreme technician and innovative stylist, Hitchcock always left his indelible stamp on his productions, flaunting a peerless formal mastery as he capitalized on a wide variety of genres, transforming all into absorbing exemplars of white-knuckled suspense and cinematic virtuosity. More than just craftsman and entertainer, Hitchcock was also a keen surveyor of the human mind, incisively exploring the psychology of fear and sexual repression in a series of classic films considered amongst the finest ever made.
Is proud to present the TEN Hitchcock classics in Special Editions...
was Alfred Hitchcock's tenth picture in England, his second thriller and first British talkie -- and it marked an important crossroads in film history. Hitchcock shot the film in 1929 as a silent picture, but when it was ready for silent editing, John Maxwell, the producer of the movie, set up a temporary sound stage with RCA equipment imported from America. It was then very costly and technically difficult to add post-dubbing, and Hitchcock had to re-shoot part of the film with live music and off-stage sound effects. But the leading actress in the film, Anny Ondra, was Czech and German and had an accent you could cut with a knife. So Hitchcock hired a young actress named Joan Barry to speak Anny Ondra's Cockney lines off-camera, while Ondra mouthed them in front of the camera. Blackmail had all the ingredients of the perfect thriller, and Hitchcock had some clever tricks with sound, like the repetition of the word knife which rises to a scream as Anny Ondra relives the moment of her crime. The film has the visual appeal of a silent film and an incredible suspense that builds and culminates during the chase at the British Museum. The spectacular climax anticipated the Statue of Liberty scene in Saboteur (1942), the Mount Rushmore scene in North by Northwest (1959), and other classic Hitchcock sequences.
Hitchcock shot the British Museum scene using transparencies and the Shuftan process (which combines painted and live-action imagery in the camera, using a windowed mirror). Producer Maxwell thought that the shooting of special visual effects would delay the production and put the film over budget, so Hitchcock did the effects without Maxwell's knowledge. As a cover, Hitchcock set up a camera on the sidelines, photographing a letter for an insert in case someone from the production office showed up uninvited. When Maxwell saw the film, he was totally surprised. Blackmail marked Hitchcock's first cameo appearance -- on a train, sitting behind his two leading actors. Hitchcock had appeared in his first thriller, The Lodger, in 1926. "It all started with a shortage of extras in my first thriller," Hitchcock once said. "I was in for a few seconds as an editor with my back to the camera. It wasn't really much, but I played it to a hilt. Since then, I have been trying to get into every one of my pictures. It isn't that I like the business, but it has an impelling fascination that I can't resist. When I do it, the cast, the grips, the cameramen and everyone else gather to make it as difficult as possible for me. But I can't stop now." Blackmail was an event when it was released in November, 1929. Critics loved the film. Hitchcock proved with Blackmail that he understood perfectly the visual flow of the film medium, as well as the possibilities that sound could offer. - Laurent Bouzereau.
Starring Anny Ondra, Sara Allgood, Charles Paton, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Cyril Ritchard. Directed and adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, from the play by Charles Bennett.
To date only has been issued on Laserdisc. Out of Print.
Laserdisc: The Criterion Collection's LD release of "Blackmail" was issued in 1993. It has the following features: Laserdisc (NTSC), 1 Disc / 2 Sides (CLV), 78 minutes, Black & White, Aspect Ratio of 1.33:1 / originally projected at 1.33:1 FF. PCM of the optical monaural master. Special Features: Sound test with Alfred Hitchcock and Anny Ondra. Directing the kiss with Alfred Hitchcock, Anny Ondra and Cyril Ritchard. The Voice on the Screen -- Documentary on the introduction of the Vitaphone. Audio commentary featuring screenwriter Charles Bennett and narrated by producer/screenwriter Stuart Birnbaum. Commentary written by Laurent Bouzereau. 1929 British International Pictures, Ltd. Cat#: CC1297L.
We have one Laserdisc available, near mint. $65.00. Please request shipping charge to your address.
The Lady Vanishes
In The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock pushes the romantic comedy thriller form to perfection. Endlessly imitated, the film remains unique, even in Hitchcock's canon. In no other movie but North by Northwest was he able to blend these two genres so perfectly. In the other, similar hybrids, one element tends to dominate: the suspense in The 39 Steps, the romance in To Catch a Thief, or the comedy in The Trouble with Harry. Watching The Lady Vanishes, we're as beguiled by the sparkling repartee of the lovers Iris and Gilbert and the daft by-play of cricket buffs Caldicott and Charters as we are riveted by the shocks and stunning plot turns. The central premise itself is wonderfully adroit: the unaccountably missing governess, Miss Froy, vanishes on a train where everyone denies she ever existed. This conundrum, which the intrepid lovers try to unravel, adds another spice; and even though Hitchcock often insists he was not a maker of mystery stories -- that his concern was suspense, not surprise -- this plot is a beauty, with an impossible crime and a gallery of colorful suspects worthy of Agatha Christie or Ellery Queen: an ingenious enigma that keeps us guessing right up to the moment of revelation. (Typically for Hitchcock, this occurs with almost a quarter of the movie, and the two most exciting sequences, still to come.)
Adapted by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder from Ethel Lina White's novel The Wheel Spins, the film's premise has a real-life antecedent: the disappearance of a young woman's brother during the 1880 Paris Exposition, at a hotel where everyone denied his existence because he had died of plague. This story was filmed by Terence Fisher in 1950, as So Long at the Fair. The Lady Vanishes script, written in 1936, is a clear attack on Britain's isolationist foreign policy under Chamberlain in the face of threats to Europe. (Indeed, the film's official appeaser, Todhunter, is shot in the back while trying to surrender.) The villains are obvious Nazi surrogates. The whole element of International intrigue was added to White's simple murder mystery by Gilliat and Launder, as well as some astonishingly irreverent political commentary and many of the characters. The dialogue has a wonderful snap and savor, a mixture of brash impudence and British understatement -- and in many ways the triumph of The Lady Vanishes is as much Gilliat's and Launder's as Hitchcock's. Ironically, despite its close identification with him, this is one of a handful of his scripts after 1934 that Hitchcock neither initiated nor worked on extensively. Indeed, it was intended for another director. Roy William Neill, later responsible for most of the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes series, was in overall charge when the second unit commenced location shooting in Yugoslavia in 1936; and he would have remained, but for a faux pas with the government that resulted in the company's exile. Hitchcock revived, and recast, the project a year later -- because he liked the script and because he had one film to go on his Gaumont British contract. The only major changes he requested were a speeded-up opening, and a new, more exciting, climax.
Characterization is crucial to the movie. As much as Stagecoach or Casablanca, this is a film full of people one remembers and loves. Where could you find a prettier, pluckier, more determined heroine than Margaret Lockwood's Iris Henderson? Or a shrewder, more impertinently charming hero than Michael Redgrave's wry young music scholar, Gilbert? Lockwood, in 1938, was a reigning British box office queen, and Redgrave was making his film debut; yet they play together with a delicious chemistry that suggests years of partnership. Where could one find a more suave, worldlier skeptic than Paul Lukas' Dr. Hartz? Or a more eerily genial magician than Philip Leaver's Signor Doppo? Or a more sublime pair of aging British public school boys than Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford's ineffable Caldicott and Charters?
The Lady Vanishes is an illusionist's trick in which one never really wants to outguess the trickery. Francois Truffaut, who claimed that he often caught it twice in a single week, told Hitchcock: "Since I know it by heart, I tell myself each time that I'm going to ignore the plot (and study the technique and effect). But each time, I become so absorbed by the characters and the story that I've yet to figure out the mechanics of the film." Indeed, the film, which begins on an obvious model set, has some of the toy-like charm of a puppet film or cartoon; its setting is a fairy-tale land, a Balkan nation seemingly composed of equal parts of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and even Switzerland (the landscapes were actually shot in the south of France), through which races a train which is a conjurer's trick of studio sets, transparencies, miniatures and optical effects. One doesn't question the train's reality any more than one doubts the existence of Miss Froy.
The Lady Vanishes represents the acme of Hitchcock's special brand of humor. Two years later, he was in America, and, though in the following decades his flair for suspense was heightened, the humor flourished only in odd segments and his acidulous TV show introductions. The Lady Vanishes remains the funniest film he ever made. The first time or the hundredth, the special alchemy of laughs, love and terror keeps its spell. The lady may vanish, but the movie stays with us always. -- Michael Wilmington
Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Cecil Parker. Featuring Linden Travers, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford, Catherine Lacy, Philip Leaver, Mary Clalre. Screenplay by Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder. Novel by Ethel Lina White. Cinematography by Jack Cox. Music by Louis Levy.
1938, 97 minutes, Black and White, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Not Anamorphic, English.
To date has been issued on VHS (Out of Print), Laserdisc (Out of Print) and DVD.
VHS: Spine number 4. Hi-Fi. 1985. Made from a 35mm negative.
Laserdisc: (CLV) Spine number 4. Catalog #: CC1104L. Hi-Fi. 1985. Extended play - 1 disc. Special features: Chapter menu.
We have One Laserdisc available, near mint. $39.00. Please request shipping charge to your address.
DVD: Spine number 3. Catalog #: LAD120. Hi-Fi. Special features: Restored image and sound - Additional audio track with commentary by film historian Bruce Eder - Chapter menu.
North By Northwest
The wittiest, most sophisticated thriller ever made, North By Northwest is one of the crowning achievements in the careers of its director, Alfred Hitchcock, and its star, Cary Grant. Released in 1959 to both critical and public acclaim, this classic spy chase comedy has gone on to take its place as one of the best-loved films in motion picture history - and one of the most imitated. No one has been quite so bold as to steal the entirety of North By Northwest's plot - cooked-up for Hitchcock by top screenwriter Ernest Lehman - but any number of incidental aspects of this film about an advertising man mistaken for a key CIA operative who finds himself thrust into a series of improbable, hair-raising adventures have found their way into any number of movies. The exotic chases and hairsbreadth escapes of the James Bond series is derived from it. Films as diverse as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone, and Close Encounters of The Third Kind have attempted to ape its self-mocking sense of humor, startling visual style, and wittily incongruous use of locations. None of them however, have North By Northwest's extraordinary technical skill or martini-dry sense of fun. And none of them have Cary Grant.
In North By Northwest, Hitchcock constructs the most elaborate variation imaginable of one of his favorite plots - an innocent man, accused of a crime he didn't commit, on the run from the authorities, and menaced by circumstances beyond his control. Hitchcock used it in The 39 Steps (1935) and Saboteur (1942), adding murder-mystery variations to this basic recipe in Strangers On A Train (1951) and To Catch A Thief (1955). In North By Northwest he places this story against the broadest possible backdrop - the landscape of America itself - and uses as his pivotal figure that icon of American success, the advertising man. The biggest star of any Hitchcock film is, of course, Hitchcock himself. And in a project that offers at every turn opportunities for the "master of suspense" to demonstrate his skill, Hitchcock outdoes himself. The cropdusting sequence in which the hero, awaiting an assignation in a cornfield, finds himself attacked by a machine-gun-equipped cropdusting plane, has been justly celebrated as one of the most remarkable scenes in film history. Presented in its original wide-screen format, this scene can be enjoyed by the laserdisc viewer again and again, marveling at this peerless example of film editing. But then it is only one of many things to marvel over in this masterpiece of pure entertainment. - David Ehrenstein. Special features: Chapter menu. Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau. Featuring Jessie Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll, Josephine Hutchinson, Philip Ober. Produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Screenplay by Ernest Lehman. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Director of Photography - Robert Burks. This edition of North by Northwest was transferred from a 35mm archival negative in the correct aspect ratio. The sound was transferred from the original stereo magnetic soundtrack masters to a 24-track digital master, which was then used for the mastering of this laserdisc.
Hitchcock on Cropdusting Scene: "Here we have the example of avoiding the cliché... The scene is: a man is told to go to a spot and the audience suspects he will be shot. Now, in every ordinary film - what is the setting? The setting is night, the corner of a street in the city... the man stands under the street light. So we have the atmosphere for terror I say, no! I cannot do it that way. It must be done fresh and new. Therefore, I'm saying I will do the same scene with nothing, no darkness, no lamp, nothing at all. All is sunlight. Everything! And now the audience is saying, 'yes, but he's going to be shot, where from, where?' This is a fantasy, but must be real. I ask what is logical? The airplane that dusts the crops. That is the idea, because it can come from nowhere." 1959, 136 minutes, Color, English.
To date has been issued on Laserdisc but not DVD. Out of Print.
Laserdisc: (CAV) Spine number 45. Catalog #: CC1145L. Widescreen, Extended Play - 3 discs.
Laserdisc: (CLV) Spine number 45-A. Catalog #: CC1226L. Widescreen, Extended Play - 2 discs.
We have one CLV Laserdisc set available, 2 discs, near mint. $39.00. Please request shipping charge to your address.
Starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Louis Calhern. Featuring Leopoldine Konstantin, Reinhold Schunzel, Ivan Triesault, Eberhard Krumschmidt, Moroni Olsen, Alex Minotis. Screenplay by Ben Hecht. Photographed by Ted Tetzlaff. Music by Roy Webb. Editor by Theron Warth. Special effects by Vernon L. Walker, Paul Eagler. Everyone has a favorite Hitchcock film. But when the votes are counted, Notorious always seems to be in the top three or four - and often number one. Considering how many films the master of suspense directed over several decades, this says a great deal. Notorious is the 1946 Hitchcock classic that ingeniously combines a romantic story involving characters portrayed by Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, espionage and intrigue in Rio de Janeiro, mysterious wine bottles, lethal cups of coffee, and an all-important small key. The incomparable Claude Rains is there too, and although portraying the villain, he is extremely charming, likable, and also in love with Ingrid Bergman. In fact, he marries Ingrid, and Cary stands by and does nothing. Why? Because of the unusual circumstances that brought Cary and Ingrid to South America. but let's not reveal too much.
The stylization is fascinating to watch. Some of Hitchcock's most famous scenes are in this film: the justly acclaimed crane shot, taking the audience from a wide establishing view of the elaborate formal party into a tight closeup of the crucial key to the wine cellar in Ingrid Bergman's hand; the brilliantly staged party scene itself, which alternates between thoughtfully conceived point of view shots and graceful, insinuating camera moves; and, of course, the wine cellar sequence, during which Cary and Ingrid discover the incriminating bottle containing not vintage nectar but...
Fortunately, for this special Criterion edition, a carefully preserved original negative was located at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and painstakingly transferred with shot-to-shot and scene-to-scene quality control. Thus, for the first time in decades we are able to see the film as it was originally intended. The velvety blacks, luminous whites, and a properly rendered gray scale give this gem its proper sheen (rather than the heretofore pale and lifeless reflection of the original rich black and white photography). - Rudy Behlmer
1946. 102 minutes. Black and White. Monaural. 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
To date has been issued on Laserdisc (Out of Print) and DVD.
Laserdisc. (CLV) Spine number 100A. Digital Sound. 101 minutes. Black & White. 1946. Extended Play. 1 disc. Special Feature: Audio Commentary by Rudy Behlmer in which he discusses the Hitchcock/Selznick collaboration, the development of the screenplay, and provides an in-depth look at the making of the film. 1990.
We have one Laserdisc available for purchase, near mint.. $39.00. Please request shipping charge to your address.
Starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson. Featuring Gladys Cooper, Nigel Bruce, Reginald Denny, C. Aubrey Smith, Melville Cooper, Florence Bates, Leonard Carey, Leo G. Carroll, Edward Fielding, Philip Winter. Produced by David O. Selznick. Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison. Photographed by George Barnes. Music by Franz Waxman. Rebecca is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The picture was restored and preserved from the original 35mm nitrate camera negative, a 35 mm nitrate fine-grain master, and a 35mm original nitrate print. A newly printed 35mm fine-grain master was used for the digital film-to-tape transfer. Inherent film artifacts were corrected in video with the MTI Digital Restoration System. The soundtrack for Rebecca was restored and preserved from the original 35mm nitrate optical soundtrack negative, a 35mm acetate dupe negative, and a 35mm magnetic music and effects master. New 35mm magnetic analog masters and DA-88 digital masters were created utilizing Sonic Solutions noise reduction software. Restoration Supervisor was Scott Mac Queen for The Walt Disney Company.
The novel is told in the first person by an unnamed young woman, a shy paid companion to the gross Mrs. Van Hopper, who is on holiday in Monte Carlo. There, "I" meets moody Maxim de Winter, a wealthy English widower. They marry and return to his estate, Manderley, which seems haunted by memories of the beautiful Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, who supposedly drowned the previous year while boating alone. The new bride grows increasingly terrified of the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, whose abnormal devotion to Rebecca makes her hate her new mistress; she even tries to coax her to commit suicide. The discovery of Rebecca's corpse in her scuttled boat casts suspicion on Max, who had identified another body as Rebecca's. Max admits to his wife that he killed Rebecca when she boasted that she was pregnant by one of her lovers. A doctor reveals that Rebecca had learned that her supposed pregnancy was actually terminal cancer. The coroner rules death by suicide. Rebecca's lover, Favell, telephones the news to Danvers, who goes berserk and burns Manderley to the ground. The de Winters find happiness elsewhere.
Although Selznick wanted to be faithful to the novel, the censors demanded that Max could not kill his wife without paying the penalty. Suicide was also frowned upon. After a hard-fought but futile battle, Selznick had to settle for Rebecca being accidentally killed when she falls while attacking Max. With a final cost of $1,288,000, Rebecca emerged as a marvelous blending of Hitchcock inventiveness and Selznick opulence. Fontaine's sensitive performance made her a major star overnight. Convincingly repressed and furtive during most of the film, she brings equal conviction to the later scenes in which she rises defiantly to her husband's defense. Olivier earned wide acclaim for his strong portrayal of dignified but vulnerable nobility. Anderson, toning down her stage technique to the subtle needs of the camera, projects malevolence superbly. The other players, especially Sanders and Bates, are also memorable. Both Selznick and Hitchcock, jealous of each other's trespasses, had misgiving about Rebecca. They needn't have worried: following its gala premiere at Radio City Music Hall on March 28, 1940, it became a popular, critical and financial hit. It won the Academy Award as Best Picture of 1940, brought an Oscar to Barnes, and earned nominations for Olivier, Fontaine, Anderson, Hitchcock, Sherwood and Harrison, Wheeler, Kern, Waxman, Cosgrove and Arthur Johns.
1940. 130 minutes. Black and White. Monaural. 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
To date has been issued on Laserdisc (Out of Print) and DVD.
Starring Sylvia Sydney, Oscar Homolka. Featuring Desmond Tester, John Loder, Joyce Barbour, Matthew Boulton, S. J. Warmington, William Dewhurst. Screenplay by Charles Bennett. From the novel 'The Secret Agent' by Joseph Conrad. Continuity by Alma Reville. Photographed by Bernard Knowles. Music by Louis Levy. Cartoon sequence courtesy Walt Disney. Alfred Hitchcock committed a shocking murder in Sabotage (1936). Here, in one of the director's darkest works, a child unknowingly carrying a bomb is blown to pieces in the streets of London. The death of Stevie is a deliberate attempt to shock an audience not accustomed to elaborately orchestrated deaths of sympathetic characters - especially children. The crime defeats expectation so decisively that it is virtually an act of cinematic terrorism. Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribute reviewed Sabotage under its American title, The Woman Along. He spoke for most of the contemporary public when he wrote, "If your senses are easily shocked, you will find the photoplay frequently unbearable."
Hitchcock attributed his own dissatisfaction with Sabotage to the casting of John Loder as the detective. He would have preferred the physical and verbal grace of Robert Donat, who contributed to the success of The Thirty-Nine Steps but could not star in Sabotage due to illness. With Donat to complement the nuanced performances of Homolka and Sydney, softening the lurking evil with his suaveness, Sabotage might have had greater appeal. But the real trouble with Sabotage is that it arrived ahead of its time. The deaths of the boy and the saboteur are as fully realized as the notorious shower scene in Psycho - and much more meaningful. Today the visual virtuosity of Sabotage repays viewing after viewing. - Mark Fleischmann.
1936. 76 minutes. Black and White. Monaural. 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Great Britain.
To date has been issued on Laserdisc but not DVD. Out of Print.
We have one Laserdisc available, near mint. $39.00. Please request shipping charge to your address
Secret Agent (1936) came to life in the prime of Alfred Hitchcock's British period. It arrived between the popular triumph of The Thirty-Nine Steps and the box-office rejection of Sabotage, a more daringly downbeat work. Secret Agent partakes of the lighthearted comedy of the former and the bitter irony of the latter. It is luxuriously cast -- John Gielgud, Madeleine Carroll, Peter Lorre, Robert Young -- and peppered with the kind of ingenious set pieces that became Sir Alfred's trademark. The scenario is an ambitious web of double identity and double meaning. Edgar Brodie (Gielgud) is a British novelist-turned-spy who travels to Switzerland during World War I under the name of Richard Ashenden. With him are a fictional wife, Elsa Carrington (Carroll), and an eccentric hired assassin known as "The General" (Peter Lorre). Their mission is to find and kill a German spy, but first they must guess who he is. Each principal character is defined by his or her entrance. Brodie/Ashenden emerges from a doorway enshrouded in shadow, a mark of his double nature: novelist and spy, idealist and conspirator. The General appears at the bottom of a staircase, shot from overhead as if ascending from hell, announced by a young girl's cry. Lorre's notoriety as the murderer in Fritz Lang's M assured him of the role -- and with it a chance to steal scene after scene.
When Caypor appears, the yelp of his little dog warns of impending danger. Robert Marvin (Robert Young) is seen from behind with a bunch of grapes hovering overhead -- evoking Dionysus, Greek god of wine and symbol of sensuality. Indeed, he is working hard to seduce Elsa, a flighty flirt who materializes straight-away with a face full of cold cream. In the playful mood, Hitchcock told a British newspaper he used the cold cream merely to deprive Carroll of her dignity. Typically, he concealed his deeper motive: undercutting her at the outset to underscore her growth into the moral center of the film. Hitchcock loved exotic locales. Switzerland, where he and Alma Reville shared their honeymoon, was one of his favorites. The Swiss "have milk chocolate," he told Francois Truffaut, "they have the Alps, they have village dances, and they have lakes." In Secret Agent all these harmless things take on sinister double meanings: a chocolate bar conceals spy-to-spy memos. The Alps become the scene of the tragic murder. The victim's mistaken identity is revealed at a village dance, prompting a marital battle and reconciliation on the water between the two spies who aren't even married. Hitchcock never could resist water imagery as an hydraulic engine of passion. The murder, of course, is the pivotal event. It gives Secret Agent the ominous undertow that repulsed early audiences and fascinates us today. Ashenden, banished along with his double to a distant conservatory by the impatient General, watches helplessly through a spyglass as the results of his bungling unfold on an Alpine hiking trail. Like James Stewart in Rear Window, like the audience itself, he learns to feel the guilty compulsion of the voyeur. He learns what it's like to be Alfred Hitchcock: to stand behind the lens and see his dark dreams realized. Angst-ridden. Removed from the action, yet responsible for the carnage.
Madeleine Carroll, caressed by the camera, becomes the moral backbone of the film, the conscientious objector. The heroine's newfound resolve overwhelms the weakening impulses of the hero. Love blooms and momentarily softens the grim juggernaut of the plot. However, duty calls Ashenden and the General to the chocolate factory where they unmask the spy. A vintage train scene consummates the story. Secret Agent has many of the hallmarks of quintessential Hitchcock: the tension between comedy and tragedy, the ambiguous moral scheme, the wealth of visual signifiers. The director never rated the film highly -- yet it is impossible to watch it and remain unmoved. -- Mark Fleischmann. Screenplay by Charles Bennett. From the play by Campbell Dixon. Based on the novel Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham. Photography by Bernard Knowles. Continuity by Alma Reville. Music director - Louis Levy.
1936. 86 minutes. Black and White. Monaural. 1.33:1 aspect ratio. English.
VHS: From The Criterion Collection Video Master: Created from the same print used for the Criterion laserdisc. Out of Print.
Laserdisc: CLV. 1 disc. Catalog #CC1118L. Out of Print.
We have one Laserdisc available for purchase, near mint. $65.00. Please request shipping charge to your address.
Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a psychiatrist with a firm understanding of human nature - or so she things. When the mysterious Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) becomes the new chief of staff at her institution, the bookish and detached Constance plummets into a whirlwind of tangled identities and feverish psychoanalysis, where the greatest risk is falling in love. A transcendent love story replete with taut excitement and startling imagery, Spellbound is classic Hitchcock, featuring stunning performances, an Academy Award-winning score by Miklos Rozsa, and a captivating dream sequence by Surrealist icon Salvador Dali. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Producer: David O. Selznick. Screenplay: Ben Hecht. Also featuring Leo G. Carroll, Rhonda Fleming, Norman Lloyd.
About the transfer: Spellbound is presented in its original theatrical aspect ration of 1.33:1 and was digitally transferred from a new 35mm internegative made from a combination of the Academy Film Archives 35mm nitrate print and David O. Selznick's 35mm acetate print. The soundtract was restored and preserved from an original 35mm nitrate print in the collection of the Academy Film Archive, and David O. Selznick's 35mm acetate print.
About the music: Consummate showman David O. Selznick had entrance and exit music prepared for the premiers of many of his most famous films. While it is unlikely that such overtures and exit music would have been heard outside of the premiere at first-run theaters in major cities, they do survive. Restorer Scott MacQueen has discovered and restored the extra music for a number of Selznick classics including Since You Went Away, The Wild Heart, and Duel in the Sun. According to MacQueen, the overture and exit music to Spellbound appear to be original arrangements, unique cues, and not simply lifts from the underscore as the Duel in the Sun and The Wild Heart overtures are. This valuable material is presented here for the first time in any home video format.
Special Features: o Spectacular new digital transfer with film and sound restoration, including rare theater entrance and exit music cues by composer Miklos Rozsa. o Commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane. o "A Nightmare Ordered by Telephone," an in-depth, illustrated essay on the Salvador Dali-designed dream sequence by James Bigwood. o Excerpts from a 1973 audio interview with composer Miklos Rozsa. o Complete 1948 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation starring Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli. o The Fishko Files: a WNYC/New York Public Radio piece on the theremin. o Essays by noted Hitchcock scholars Leonard Leff and Lesley Brill. o Hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos and documents chronicling the film's production, including set photos, ads, posters, and publicity material. o Theatrical trailer. o English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. o Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition.
1945. 111 minutes. Black & White. Monaural. 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
DVD: From The Criterion Collection. Spine number 136.
The 39 Steps
Starring Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll. Featuring Godfrey Tearle, Helen Haye, Lucie Mannheim, Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie, Wylie Wilson. Produced by Michael Balcon, Ivor Montagu. Screenplay by Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Alma Reville. Original Story by John Buchan. Cinematography by Bernard Knowles. Music by Louis Levy. Movie thrillers may come and go, but after half a century, Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps still reigns supreme. And not only for the sheer, breathless excitement of the story; the seamless construction; the chilling, beautifully realized atmosphere; and the constant, startling stream of plot twists. Not for its historical importance, though almost every chase and spy thriller since 1935 copies it slavishly. Nor for its actors - despite a truly excellent ensemble. More than anything else, the film keeps its preeminent place because this is the movie in which Hitchcock became "Hitchcock" - and for which he earned the reputation which he never relinquished as "The Master of Suspense." Hitchcock had major successes before, but The 39 Steps was the first with major International impact. No previous Hitchcock so gripped, amused or thrilled audiences from Europe to America, Australia to Asia.
More than any of his previous 19 British films, or the five which followed, it is the movie which was responsible for his immigration to America, as a first-rank filmmaker. In fact, for many years, most critics insisted that Hitchcock had never equaled or surpassed The 39 Steps. Well into the 1960s, it was still commonly called his best movie. Andre Bazin: "It remains indubitably his masterpiece and a model for detective comedies." Pauline Kael: "This suave, amusing spy melodrama is... charged with wit; it's one of the three or four best things Hitchcock ever did." The 39 Steps is a bonafide cinematic masterpiece which the public clasps to its bosom, a great work which is also a great crowd-pleaser: amusing and scary, engaging and engrossing, full of dazzling light and eerie shadow. Hitchcock liked to remark, with what may have been a sly touch of self-deprecation: "Most films are slices of life. Mine are slices of cake." This particular cake is one of his most luscious: dark, savory, a richly compulsive treat. - Michael Wilmington.
1935. 87 minutes. Black and White. Monaural. 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Not Anamorphic. English.
To date has been issued on VHS (Out of Print), Laserdisc (Out of Print) and DVD.
We have one Laserdisc available, near mint. $29.00. Please request shipping charge to your address.
DVD. Spine number 56. 86 minutes. Dolby Digital Mono 1.0. This new digital transfer was created from a 35mm composite fine-grain master. The transfer was then completely restored by hand-removing over 21,000 instances of dirt, scratches, rips, and debris utilizing the MTI Digital Restoration System. The sound was also extensively restored by using digital tools to remove such audio imperfections as film pops, crackle, and hiss. Special Features: Gorgeous new transfer, with digitally restored image and sound - Audio essay by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane - The complete 1937 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation, performed by Robert Montgomery and Ida Lupino - The Art of Film: Vintage Hitchcock, a Janus Films documentary detailing the director's British period - Excerpts from the original 1935 press book - Original production design drawings - English subtitles - Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition.
Young and Innocent
Starring Nova Pilbeam. Featuring Derrick de Mamey, Percy Marmont, Edward Rigby, Basil Radford, John Longden, George Curzon, Pamela Carme, George Merritt, J. H. Roberts, Jerry Verno, H. F. Maltby, John Miller. In Young and Innocent (1937) Alfred Hitchcock uses all the signs in his visual vocabulary to tell one of his favorite stories: fugitive hero unjustly accused of murder. Yet this is also a story of youth and innocence triumphant - a light entertainment, a souffle made by a master chef. It's nestled between the doom-laden Sabotage (1936) and the spy scenario of The Lady Vanishes (1938) like a water pistol in a drawer full of handguns. The camera does some gazing of its own. In one of film history's most celebrated crane shots, the camera pans from the Grand Hotel lobby past a dividing wall and across the length of a huge ballroom, created on Pinewood Studio's largest soundstage. Through Hitchcock's artistry, the audience knows that the camera is zooming in on some truth - a truth that will be apparent when the camera stops.
By Hitchcock's standards Young and Innocent is a merry romp. Its hero and heroine are untroubled by the shocking murders and moral ambiguities of Secret Agent and Sabotage. The director must have felt his public required some comic relief after those two dark works, especially Sabotage, built around the death of a child. Hitchcock needed to consolidate his position as cinematic magician, master of suspense - not just another serial murderer. Through the fresh-faced protagonists and birthday-party revelers of Young and Innocent he found the freedom to celebrate youth, innocence, and the safe romantic conventions of the cinema. - Mark Fleischmann. Special features: Chapter menu.
1937. 82 minutes. Black and White. Great Britain. Monaural. 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
To date has been issued on Laserdisc but not DVD. Out of Print.
We have one Laserdisc available, near mint. $39.00. Please request shipping charge to your address.
Criterion Hitchcockian Classics
Directed by Michael Curtis. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre. Screenplay by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch, based on the play "Everybody Comes to Rick's" by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison. Music by Max Steiner.
Of all the films produced in the United States during World War II, only two could be said to transcend their origins and truly reflect the popular Zeitgeist: one is David O. Selznick's 1944 epic of the homefront, Since You Went Away, and the other, of course, is Casablanca. Over the years, Casablanca has developed a devoted following and has been transmuted from just a highly-regarded melodrama into one of the classics of the Romantic genre. More has been written about it than any other film, with the possible exception of The Birth of a Nation, Citizen Kane, and Gone With The Wind. Its central image, that of Bogart in a trench coat and hat, holding a gun, with a cagarette dangling from his lips, has become a popular icon or sorts. The film has spawned any number of books, master's theses and been the inspiration for Woody Allen's hit play and film Play It Again, Sam, a popular misquotation of one of the film's memorable lines. What exactly transpired over the years to transform Casablanca's status has been endlessly debated, discussed and otherwise analyzed. Casablanca is unique because it crystallized and encapsulated an entire generation's idealistic view of itself. There is scarcely anyone in this country over the age of 45 who can remain unmoved by the film. It provides tangible evidence of not necessarily the way we were, but more importantly, the way we wanted to be. It is this sense of the more positive beliefs and virtues of another time that gives the film its timelessness. Casablanca bridges the generations, giving us a sense of the hopes of an earlier decade and reminding us that a heritage need not be lost to the passage of time. - Ronald Haver.
Directed by H. G. Clouzot. Starring Simone Signore, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel. After finishing Diabolique, heralded French Director-Screenwriter Henri-Georges Clouzot (1907-1977) confessed that all he had intended was to make a picture that would "amuse myself" and please a young girl who hid under the covers and asked her father to frighten her with a bedtime story. He shrugged: "I just produced it as I would a game." Yet the "child's game" was soon recognized everywhere as an adult terror classic, far too chilling for the children of the world. Indeed, prior to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Clouzot's eerie masterwork was considered the most frightening and artistic horror picture ever made.
In fact, just as Hitchcock was a major influence on France's master of Suspense, Hitchcock admitted an equal debt to Clouzot, and not just because they had similar disrespect for actors (whereas Hitchcock called them "cattle," martinet Clouzot called them "instruments"). Not only can we see traces of Psycho throughout Diabolique -- note the many similar plot elements and story twists, suspense devices, shocks, quirky characters, and morbid humor -- but Hitchcock even borrowed Clouzot's successful ploy of insisting no one be admitted to theaters once the film began. Hitchcock's fondness for Clouzot was evident two years before, when he made Vertigo. That equally sordid tale was adapted from the book D'entre Les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the writers of Diabolique's source novel, Celle Qui N'etait Plus.
Sisters Directed by Brian de Palma. Starring Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt. Margot Kidder is Danielle, a beautiful model separated from her Siamese twin, Dominique. When a hotshot reporter (Jennifer Salt) suspects Dominique of a brutal murder, she becomes dangerously ensnared in the sisters' insidious sibling bond. A scary and stylish paean to female destructiveness, De Palma's first foray into horror voyeurism is a stunning amalgam of split-screen effects, bloody birthday cakes, and a chilling score by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann.
Special Features in this Criterion Special Edition DVD: New widescreen digital transfer, enhanced for 16x9 televisions with restored picture and sound. Director Brian De Palma's 1973 Village Voice essay "Murder by Moog: Scoring the Chill," on working with composer Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Citizen Kane). A 1973 print interview with De Palma on the making of Sisters. "Rare Study of Siamese Twins in Soviet," the 1966 Life magazine article that inspired De Palma. Excerpts from the original press book, including ads and exploitation. Hundreds of production, publicity, and behind-the-scenes stills. English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired.