Reel Classics

Stage Fright: The Warner Archive Collection (1950) - Blu-ray Review

Stage Fright: The Warner Archive Collection

Cue the music and pull back the “safety curtain.” You are in for a fun one. 

It is one of the most over-looked projects in Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography, but Stage Fright, has no shortage of suspense from the master himself. In this piece of theater, virtually every character plays the roles of their lives when murder takes center stage. And with everyone putting on their best performances…who is going to find who out? And who on earth is telling the truth?!

"a great whodunit sprinkled with that famous Hitchcockian dark humor and seat-gripping suspense"


Charlotte Inwood’s (Marlene Dietrich) husband has been murdered. After going to Johnathan Cooper (Richard Todd) wearing a blood-stained dress, Johnathan recounts to long-time friend and aspiring actress Eve Gill (Jane Wyman), that the veteran actress admitted to killing her husband in the heat of passion. Of course, not wanting to return to the scene of the crime, Charlotte sends her young lover back to her house to get clean clothes to rid herself of the bloody evidence. But, when he is there, the maid walks in, and Johnathan becomes the primary suspect of the murder, and now Eve Gill will do anything she can to clear the name of the man she wants to marry one day. How far will she go?

It is quite a shame that this is not one of Hitchcock’s more talked-about films because, my goodness, this is absolutely a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Perhaps not as intense as his other films, but the whole time, the audience is just waiting for one of the characters to crack, and for the whole film to just fall apart. All three of the main players of Wyman, Todd, and Dietrich deliver wonderful performances in their own right. Wyman delivers two-fold, balancing between the naïve, young Eve and soft-spoken “Doris Tinsdale.” Todd plays a perfect panic-stricken man-on-the-run. And Dietrich is effortlessly glamorous as the mysterious widow.Stage Fright: The Warner Archive Collection

Now, if you want to avoid any spoilers…TURN BACK NOW. (You have been warned).

The ending of the film, quite frankly, makes the whole picture. But of course, in any whodunit, endings are of utmost importance, and Stage Fright is no exception. And its ending is fantastic. From the very beginning, Hitchcock tricked us (that sneaky little devil), and we learn in a quiet confession to Eve that Johnathan’s flashback in the beginning of the film was absolutely false! Now, many audiences may not like the idea of an unreliable narrator - in fact, Hitchcock did not even like it, and actually regretted putting the false flashback in the film after it was already released – but, to me (and I think some others will agree), it is absolutely genius! How is that for a twist! 

Overall, Stage Fright is sneaky and entertaining. It is a great whodunit sprinkled with that famous Hitchcockian dark humor and seat-gripping suspense. Hopefully with this new Blu-Ray release, Stage Fright will find a little bit more of an audience because it absolutely deserves more attention. And thanks to the Warner Brothers Archive Collection, audiences old and new can experience it with a beautiful new 4K restoration.

4/5 stars

 

Stage Fright: The Warner Archive Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Warner Archive Collection
Available on Blu-ray
- January 25, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

In Alfred Hitchcock's world, theaters are where danger stalks the wings, characters are not what they seem, and that "final curtain" can drop any second. The droll Stage Fright springs from that entertaining tradition. Jane Wyman plays drama student Eve Gill, who tries to clear a friend (Richard Todd) being framed for murder by becoming the maid of flamboyant stage star Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich). Filming in his native England, Hitchcock merrily juggles elements of humor and whodunit and puts a game ensemble (Alistair Sim, Sybil Thorndike, Joyce Grenfell, Kay Walsh and daughter Patricia Hitchcock) through its paces. No one turns a theatre into a bastion of dread like Hitchcock, and Stage Fright is proof positive.

Video

Presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the new 4K restoration from the film’s original nitrate camera negative is spectacular. The contrast and the depth of colors are great, especially with the darker scenes. Everything in the film seems to pop nicely. The grain and detail are greatly polished to give a clean and rather sharp look. A great improvement from any of the other previous releases.

Audio

The 2.0 DTS-HD mono soundtrack has no traces of any hisses, pops, or anything else that would be distracting. Dialogue and music come in perfectly clear. The only minor issue is that it is a bit on the quiet side, so just make sure to turn those speakers up a tad bit more than normal. Other than that, a wonderful job.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

A nice little featurette about the film and the filmmaker himself is included. It gives you a good insight on where and how this film fits into Hitchcock’s long and legendary career, as well as some great analysis on the film from other filmmakers and a couple of the film’s stars.

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3.5/5 stars


Film Details

Stage Fright: The Warner Archive Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime:
110 mins
Director
: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer:
Whitfield Cook
Cast:
Marlene Dietrich; Jane Wyman; Richard Todd
Genre
: Mystery | Noir
Tagline:
Love held its breath as sudden terror held the stage!
Memorable Movie Quote: "You can stand just so much of detectives! After all, they are only policemen with smaller feet!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 15, 1950
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 25, 2022.
Synopsis:  Jane Wyman plays drama student Eve Gill, who tries to clear a friend (Richard Todd) being framed for murder by becoming the maid of flamboyant stage star Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich).

Art

Stage Fright: The Warner Archive Collection

 

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