Budget Release Meets/Exceeds Expectations
C. T. Mikesell | near Eugene, Oregon | 05/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First the usual warnings: caveat emptor, you get what you pay for, etc. etc. etc., yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. With that out of the way, let me say that getting these three early Hitchcock films at such a low price is an extremely good deal. Sure they're blurry in parts and there are occasional picture/sound glitches, but nothing really interferes with either the storytelling or the suspense, which is really why you're watching them in the first place.
Let me add that the four-star rating is for the DVD as a whole. None of the films are presented at four-star quality (The Lady Vanishes is maybe three-and-a-half), but the fact that you get three movies instead of one or two bumps the score from average to slightly-above.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is the oldest of the three movies and its print and sound quality are the most deteriorated. Nevertheless, the symphony scene and the final gunfight retain their suspensefulness. The movie holds its own against the 1956 remake; Leslie Banks is no Jimmy Stewart, but at least Edna Best doesn't sing.
Secret Agent features a young John Gielgud, only a year or two out of short pants, I'm sure. Peter Lorre steals the show here, however, as an assassin or curious nationality. Of the three, I felt this was the least Hitchcockian in comparison with his later - and greater - work. It works on a psychological level, like his very-early Blackmail, rather than building the suspense of the other two films on this DVD or terror of Psycho or The Birds. The "self-translating" cypher notes are a nice effect; the spinning bowls and train crash are nice attempts at special effects that fall a little short of the mark.
The Lady Vanishes is the most recent of these films, and sports the best sound and picture. It also has some of the most recognizable Hitchcockian touches. The poisoned brandies framed in the extreme foreground, the hero(ine) whose sanity is in doubt, etc. It's also the most comedic throughout (although Lorre and Robert Young play their roles for laughs in Secret Agent, too).
If you want pristine remastered prints of these films, look elsewhere and expect to pay significantly more than a few dollars per movie. If you can "make do" with versions that look 65-70 years old, and want to experience Hitchcock early in his career, give this DVD a spin. If it turns out not to be to your liking, at least you haven't paid a lot to find that out. Odds are you'll find you get a lot for the price (a brief biography of Hitchcock appears on the disc, trivia factoids appear on the packaging), and won't experience buyer's remorse or feel ripped off by your purchase."
Definitive Hitch...Three From The 30's
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 02/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Three from Hitch's early British works that are filled with great actors and all those special touches that just say Hitch.
From 1936..."The Secret Agent". You'll find Hitch's unique sense of humor well integrated with the suspense and his definitive style, in this terrific film about espionage at the onset of WWI. A reluctant spy is recruited to kill an enemy spy. He is given a false name and a fake wife to keep up appearances. He goes after the target, but does he have the right man? Could there be another who is the real culprit? And what a cast.. John Gielgud stars with Madeline Carroll,Robert Young and Peter Lorre(fabulous as always) as his very strange accomplice.Other notables to look for include Lilli Palmer and Michael Redgrave.
Where's Hitch.....alas, there seems to be no appearance by Sir Alfred here...4 stars
From 1934.."The Man Who Knew Too Much"(He remade this one in 1956). A great thriller about a carefree family on a winter holiday, who unwittingly become involved in an assassination plot. The Lawrences are having a wonderful time, but when their dear friend is shot, he reveals to them a plot to assassinate an important statesman before he dies. The would be killers kidnap the young daughter of the family in order to ensure their silence.Working with the police is out of the question and the Lawrences must take matters into their own hands as they try to rescue their daughter and stop the murder, which is to take place at the glorious Albert Hall.
Hitch keeps the suspense going through out with an edge of your seat climatic scene. Watch for one of his famous trademark staircase scenes in this early film.The film stars Leslie Banks and Edna Best as the Lawrences, and Peter Lorre at his most menacing!
Where's Hitch: Sorry Hitch watchers, again there doesn't seem to be any appearance by the master...5 stars
"The Lady Vanishes"(1938)
Of all Hitch's early British made films(mostly made during the late 1920's and 1930's), "The Lady Vanishes" is by far the most captivating one for me. A train trip is the setting for this mystery. A woman's traveling companion has disappeared. Where could she be? The train is only so big. She tries desperately to find her friend, but is alone in her quest. No one seems to believe that she even had a companion to start with.All seem to have their own mysterious reasons for denying her any help.Finally one man is convinced to help, and together they try to solve this possible crime.
There are lots of tense sequences to keep you in suspense, and your heart pounding. Hitch mixes up the thrills with his marvelous sense of humor and his wonderful trademark style. Wonderful performances by the likes of Dame Mae Whitty, Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave add to the enjoyment of this one.
Looking for Hitch:....You must be patient. Check Victoria Station almost at the end of the film...5 stars