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Rebecca: Criterion Collection (1940) - Blu-ray Review

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Rebecca: Criterion Collection

From identical dresses to the fire which ravishes Manderley, the second Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine) can never, ever take the place of Rebecca.  Cue the romance, the heartbreak, the haunted tension and wind it all up because this film is all about the snap.  That’s what makes this psychological tale of love gone awry so memorable and that’s why this mesmerizing movie STILL matters.  Netflix's updated take on this story might be good, but it will NEVER take the place of this masterpiece of mood and memory.

"this psychological thriller is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films as it is remarkable in its ability to create suspense in even its tiniest of moments"


Gothic in nature, this psychological thriller is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films as it is remarkable in its ability to create suspense in even its tiniest of moments.  Winner of the Best Picture and Best Cinematography, Rebecca is on blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection’s 4K restoration of the original 35mm nitrate camera negative.  This release, full of elegance and grace, strikes a twisting chord in its audience from the very first frame and doesn't give up the ghost . . . pun intended.

Because, yes, Rebecca is certainly a ghost story.  The new Mrs. de Winter doesn’t even stand a chance when she is brought into the mansion.  She’s doomed from the start.  She just doesn’t realize.  Neither do we, although we have more of a fighting chance than most when we start to put together the pieces of obsession and desire.

Concerned with two women in one mansion by the sea (or is it three?!), this haunted tale tackles the plight of one rather naive young woman (Fontaine) who finds herself head over heels in love with widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier).  Before she knows it, she is swept up in a serious romance with an aristocrat and shuffled off to the wild, wild sea in south-western England.  Rebecca: Criterion Collection

Blame it on the French Riviera.  Blame it on the season.  Blame it on whatever you want to, just don’t hang what happens to this young woman - as she becomes the second Mrs. De Winter and finds herself lost in someone else’s memory - on this poor woman’s shoulders.  Because Maxim’s housekeeper, a very cruel Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), is absolutely obsessed with his previous wife and, through no fault of the living Mrs. de Winter, reminds her - rather tirelessly - that she will NEVER live up to her memory. 

Everywhere she turns, Mrs. de Winter is reminded of her presence.  Danvers even keeps her bedroom the same.  Nothing is untouched.  Nothing can be moved either.  It’s exactly as Danvers wants it; forever freezing the memory of Rebecca as if it were frozen in time within the walls of Manderley.

Something dreadful has happened here and it will happen again.  That’s the ghost story at the center of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.  Adapted by Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison, Philip MacDonald, and Michael Hogan, Rebecca is also a story about two men going to war with each other as Hitchcock and famed producer David O. Selznick were arguing back and forth via letters and edits - some trick in-camera edits made by Hitch - while the film was being made.

They couldn’t see eye to eye and, as Hitch wanted to make some changes to the original story, Selznick balked at any attempt to scandalize the source material.  This back and forth created quite the tension as Rebecca’s script and Hitchcock found themselves both at odds with Selznick and the Hollywood Production Code.  It was certainly a battle of wills, but - when it is all said and done - that tension created a flawless REEL CLASSIC.

Hitchcock’s first journey into Hollywood paved the way for much, much more psychodrama courtesy of the Master of Suspense. 

5/5 stars

Rebecca: Criterion Collection

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor:
Available on Blu-ray
- September 5, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Rebecca is a classic.  A dreamlike adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, the film stars the enchanting Joan Fontaine as a young woman who believes she has found her heart’s desire when she marries the dashing aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter (played with cunning vulnerability by Laurence Olivier). But upon moving to Manderley—her groom’s baroque ancestral mansion—she soon learns that his deceased wife haunts not only the estate but the temperamental, brooding Maxim as well. The start of Hitchcock’s legendary collaboration with producer David O. Selznick, this elegiac gothic vision, captured in stunning black and white by George Barnes, took home the Academy Awards for best picture and best cinematography.

Video:

The new 4K restoration is crackling with intensity and never-before-seen clarity.  Framed in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Rebecca stirs the soul thanks to its stunning vistas and its haunting atmosphere.  This release is a glorious monument to stirring black-and-white cinematography as the details in each of the rooms absolutely burst out of the edges of this transfer with depth and surprising detail.  The locations in this film- with clean black lines and sparkling grays - is intoxicating.  This is a grand transfer with a clarity that is appreciated and thanks to the work here it looks all the more gorgeous.  Truly a wonderful handling of this transfer.

Audio:

The Mono DTS-HD Master Audio English is plenty good for this film.  Dialogue is crisp and clean and the music swells appropriately.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There is a wonderful commentary recorded in 1990 featuring film scholar Leonard J. Leff as he waxes poetic about this spellbinding movie.

Special Features:

Filled with great supplemental items, Criterion has done Rebecca proud with this release which gives fans looks at the film’s visual effects, a making of documentary, an isolated music track, and much more.  There is also an essay by critic and Selznick biographer David Thomson and selected Selznick production correspondence with Hitchcock, depicting just how at odds with each other these two GIANTS of filmmaking were..

  • Isolated music and effects track
  • New conversation between film critic and author Molly Haskell and scholar Patricia White
  • New interview with film historian Craig Barron on Rebecca’s visual effects
  • Daphne du Maurier: In the Footsteps of “Rebecca,” a 2016 French television documentary
  • Making-of documentary from 2007
  • Footage of screen, hair, makeup, and costume tests for actors Joan Fontaine, Anne Baxter, Vivien Leigh, Margaret Sullavan, and Loretta Young
  • Casting gallery with notes by director Alfred Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick
  • Hitchcock interviewed by Tom Snyder on a 1973 episode of NBC’s Tomorrow
  • Tomorrow interview with Fontaine from 1980
  • Audio interviews from 1986 with actor Judith Anderson and Fontaine
  • Three radio versions of Rebecca, from 1938, 1941, and 1950, including Orson Welles’s adaptation of the novel for the Mercury Theatre
  • Theatrical Rerelease Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

5/5 stars

Rebecca: Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: unrated.
Runtime:
130 mins
Director
: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer:
Robert E. Sherwood
Cast:
Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders
Genre
: Drama | Mystery | Thriller
Tagline:
A lonely man, a lovely girl... struggling against the secret of Manderley.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Most girls would give their eyes for the chance to see Monte!"
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 12, 1940
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 5, 2017
Synopsis: Romance becomes psychodrama in Alfred Hitchcock's elegantly crafted Rebecca, his first foray into Hollywood filmmaking. A dreamlike adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel, the film stars the enchanting Joan Fontaine as a young woman who believes she has found her heart's desire when she marries the dashing aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter (played with cunning vulnerability by Laurence Olivier). But upon moving to Manderley—her groom's baroque ancestral mansion—she soon learns that his deceased wife haunts not only the home but the temperamental, brooding Maxim as well.

Rebecca: Criterion Collection

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