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Hitchcock (2012)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/12/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/19/2013

Is it me or have we been seeing a lot more biopics lately? It feels like every other movie is based on someone's life story. When these movies run into trouble, it's usually because they are too broad and attempt to cover too much of the person's life, or they are too narrow and offer a focus which is so narrow that we feel that we don't get to know the person. Finding this balance is tough, as the film should want to tell an interesting story while providing information about its subject. Hitchcock not only finds that balance, but it's able to reveal many secrets about a man who was a well-known public figure.

Hitchcock opens in 1959. North by Northwest has just premiered and legendary director Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) is at the top of his game. But, he's also 60 years old and he can't help but wonder if his career is winding down. His wife and greatest supporter Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) dismisses this idea, as she's more worried about her husband's weight than his success. "Hitch", as he's known to his friends, has made successful movies and is well-known for his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television show, but he longs for something more. He comes across a novel called Psycho and it's bizarre story and bloody imagery piques his curiosity. He takes it to Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow), the head of Paramount Pictures, but Balaban passes. Believing that this movie would show the audience that he still had the power to shock, Hitchcock decides to finance the project with his own money, with Alma's full support. With a screenplay and cast in place, Hitchcock begins to shoot the picture, but there is still doubt about the appeal of such an intense movie. Meanwhile, Alma is spending more time with their friend, novelist Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), and Hitchcock grows suspicious.

Alfred Hitchcock had storied career in film which spanned over 50 years. He directed many films which are now considered classics and helped to define what we think of as suspense-thrillers. His work influenced countless other filmmakers. He was also known for his droll personality and he loved to make cameos in his own movies. Given all of that, Hitchcock could have focused on any number of moments from Hitchcock's life and career. Based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, the film wisely decides to examine a tumultuous time in Hitchcock's life which also produced what is arguably his best-known film.

Thus, Hitchcock gives us two intersecting stories, both of which are interesting. (One of the most compelling things about the film is that each viewer may prefer one story over the other.) First and foremost, the film examines the making of Psycho. As with many horror fans, I've seen the movie and I'm familiar with both the source novel (which doesn't get enough recognition) and the fact that the book incorporated elements of Ed Gein's real-life crimes. However, I didn't know much about the making of the movie or the battles Hitchcock fought to get it made and these parts of the film are fascinating. It's amazing to see what little faith the moneymen had in a filmmaker which so much clout. It's also fun to see how much Hitchcock believed in the project and how excited he was about making something so subversive. Director Sacha Gervasi and Writer John J. McLaughlin have developed an ingenious way to illustrate Hitchcock's obsession with the story, by having him have visions of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott). This clever addition helps to make Hitchcock more than a standard biopic.

The other part of the story examines the relationship between Hitchcock and Alma, about whom I knew nothing. It's amazing to learn that behind the beloved director was a strong and clever woman who helped to nurture his ideas and even helped out on the set. Alma wasn't intimidated by her husband and had no problem putting him in his place. Her relationship with Cook adds another level to the story and we see how a man who made a career of making paranoia thrillers suddenly becomes very suspicious himself. While a lot of this is played for drama, it's actually refreshing to see an on-screen couple who are supportive of one another and are both intelligent people.

Entertainment Weekly named Hitchcock as one of the worst films of the 2012, but for the life of me, I can't imagine why. I found the film to be very clever and creative and it truly elevated what could have been very dry material. The acting is very good, although Hopkins does chew the scenery a bit. (And if you watch footage of Hitchcock from that era, he's not as puffy and sweaty as he's portrayed in the film.) My only complaint about Hitchcock is that it's one of those movies where we need "pop-up video" to let us know which scenes are based on truth and which are being exaggerated.

Hitchcock gets a little meta when an actor playing a real-life serial killer shares a scene with an actor famous for playing a fictional serial killer on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 31 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The exterior daytime scenes are incredibly crisp -- you feel that you could step through the screen into them. The colors look fantastic, most notably reds and blues, and the image is never overly dark or bright. (I really like how Gervasi used bright colors to off-set the dark nature of Psycho.) The image shows a nice level of detail and the depth is good as well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track whcih runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a docudrama, we are mainly treated to dialogue which comes from the center channel. But, with the in-film sound effects, we get some nice stereo and surround effects. The music contributes notable bass effects.

The Hitchcock Blu-ray Disc contains a generous amount of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Sacha Gervasi and author Stephen Rebello. The Disc contains one DELETED SCENE which runs about 2 minutes, complete with introduction from Gervasi. This is actually an extended version of a scene from the movie. "Becoming the Master: From Hopkins to Hitchcock" (12 minutes) examines not only Hopkins' performance, but the makeup effects as well. "Obsessed with Hitchcock" (29 minutes) is a detailed making-of featurette which examines how the movie made it from a book to the screen. This contains ample comments from Gervasi and Rebello, as well as the cast. "Sacha Gervasi's Behind the Scenes Cell Phone Footage" (13 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like, as the director documented some important and candid moments. "Hitchcock Cell Phone PSA" (41 seconds) is an ad made for theaters. "The Story" (4 minutes) offers film clips and interviews, many of which are reminiscent of those offered in the earlier segments. "The Cast" (4 minutes) looks at each of the main actors and provides quotes from them. "Danny Elfman Maestro" (2 minutes) is simply a music video which has shots of Elfman at work and clips from the movie set to music. There is no interview with Elfman here. "Hitch and Alma" (3 minutes) takes another look at how the relationship is the core of the story. Those who knew and worked with Hitchcock share their thoughts on the director in "Remembering Hitchcock" (5 minutes). The final extra is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.