Alfred Hitchcock's 1929 remake of the 1916 U.K. drama The Manxman is no picnic: lives are destroyed, careers ruined, and hopes dashed. One of the director's harshest works, this silent film concerns two old school chums on... more » the Isle of Man, Pete (Carl Brisson) and Phil (Malcolm Keen), who both love the same woman, Kate (Anny Ondra). Phil has been reared and educated to become an aristocrat--a successful lawyer and eventual judge. Pete, by contrast, is happy as a fisherman but cannot win Kate until he earns his fortune. (He also doesn't know how Phil really feels about his girl.) When word comes that Pete has died overseas, Phil and Kate consummate their passion, only to find that the news of their friend's demise has been greatly exaggerated. What follows is a doomed effort by the lovers to paper over what they've done: Pete marries Kate, all right, but Kate and Phil's deception not only doesn't go away, it just gets deeper. Hitchcock explores, though not too subtly, his developing preoccupation with shared guilt and secret selves, and he layers in strong hints of ever-deepening motivation behind so much self-destruction. (A suggestion that blue-blooded Phil is really using the barmaid Kate as a shield against his destiny is not only provocative but amplifies the tragedy.) Much of the film is set-bound, but there are also astonishing moments of Hitchcock working out early versions of visual ideas fulfilled up to 30 years later in such films as North by Northwest and Psycho. --Tom Keogh« less
"Note: this review refers to the 14-DVD boxed set and not just to Volume 1. No film buff and certainly no film major should be without the boxed set of 14 DVDs that Laserlight has issued under the umbrella title of . The DVDs are organized in no particular order, some containing only one film, some two, while two of them have a full film and an episode from the old "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV series of the 1950s. They all have a trailer of more recent Hitchcock films and they all have an embarrassingly bad introduction by Tony Curtis, whose connection with these films and with English enunciation is vague at best. The gems of the collection are "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1934), "The 39 Steps" (1935) and "The Lady Vanishes" (1939). Of the earlier talkies, "Young and Innocent" has the quintessential plot of an innocent man and a girl who somehow winds up with him being chased by the police. "Rich and Strange" (1932) is not a thriller but has a shivery sequence as a couple on a sinking boat sees the water seeping into their cabin--just before it stops sinking. "Jamaica Inn" (1939) has an over the top performance by Charles Laughton (whose dialogue is hard to follow even on this restored version) and the first appearance of Maureen O'Hara. And for once, Robert Newton plays the Good Guy. "Sabotage" (1936) is based on a Joseph Conrad tale and has the famous scene of the boy on a bus with a bomb on his lap. (Later, Hitchcock commented he should not have let it go off.) "Secret Agent" (1936) gives us a young John Gielgud as a spy who kills the wrong man, Peter Lorre in a very bizarre role (helped or hindered by his drug-taking on and off the set), and the suavest villain of them all--Robert Young! "Number 17" (1932) is one of the films Hitchcock did not want to film, and he gave us a great spoof on the genre of the spooky houses, diamond smugglers, and derring-do. "Murder" (1930) boasts a super cool Herbert Marshall as a jurist who reluctantly says guilty at a woman's murder trial and then spends the rest of the film proving her innocent.More fascinating is "Blackmail" (1929), which existed in silent and talking versions. We have the latter and the often commented upon scene in which Hitchcock plays with the soundtrack so that only the word "knife" can be heard during the last part of a long monologue. Another trick he was forced into was the use of a British actress reading out the lines of the foreign-born heroine. "The Skin Game" (1931) is weakest of the talkies included in this set; and indeed the dialogue is almost impossible to understand.Of the silents, "The Lodger" (1927) is in the worst shape but it shows very clearly the influence of the silent German film on Hitchcock's early (and later) technique. Of course the long takes of a face staring into the camera are laughable today; but this is an historical document and demands a certain degree of detachment. "The Ring" (1927) does strain credibility, while it shows Hitchcock's love for show business of any sort, even circus freakshows and boxing. "The Manxman" (1929) is slow and predictable with its love triangle, a misreported death, and the return of the husband. "Easy Virtue" (1927) is based on a Noel Coward play, which it follows only half way through the film, and shows a sympathetic view of the "woman with a past"--in this case, a divorce--together with a condemnation of those who cannot accept her. More Social Studies than good drama here. However, "The Farmer's Wife" (1928) is quite funny once the somewhat jerky widower offers himself to three unlikely women while his housekeeper loves him in silence and has to assist him in his wooing spree. One feature of these DVDs you will probably not need is the ability to hear the talkies in English, Spanish, Chinese or Japanese; or to subtitle the dialogue cards in the silents in the last three languages. A strange feature of these DVDs is that they immediately take you into the film rather than into the menu. This should be changed in future printings. So all in all, I would guess you would want to see some of the talkies many, many times, some of the silents less often, and some of them never again. But once more, this is a very valuable set for students and just plain lovers of film history, especially the part played in that history by Hitchcock."
A Good Value for Hitchcock Fans
F. Behrens | 08/29/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"These DVDs (and The AH Collection II) are quite a good value. I?m a big Hitchcock fan, and before I bought them I had only seen cheapo VHS versions of a few of the movies (except for The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps, of which I had the Criterion editions). Anyway, I got the two box sets here on Amazon (they?re also now available in one big set with 14 DVDs), and I?ve watched through all of them.
The first thing you need to know, and then promptly forget about, is that Tony Curtis provides an introduction to each DVD, and man is it brutal! There are a lot of pictures that were publicity stills for his later movies or his TV series, and Tony says things like, ?Hitch liked to shock people. You know what it?s like when you have a good twist at the end of a film? Hitch had a lot of those. Shocking!? His comments rarely relate to the movie. Anyway, I watched all the intros, but it was painful.
Several of the DVDs also have trailers for later Hitchcock films, all in horrible condition. Which makes the transfers of the actual movies all that much better, since they?re quite acceptable. The worst transfer is the earliest film, The Lodger, and the worst movies are The Manxman and Easy Virtue. Besides that, it was a pleasure watching them. None of the films are at the level of the two Criterion releases, and there are certainly lines and scratches throughout, but you can enjoy them. The sound is generally okay?very little screeching as I recall from the VHS copies I?ve seen. There?s really no bass response at all, but there?s not a whole lot of scratching either.
I think (a) except for the two Criterion ones, they?re the best copies out there, (b) if you?re a Hitchcock fan, they?re required viewing and you won?t be disappointed in the movies themselves, and (c) at about $... a DVD, and with three or so of the discs containing a second, silent film (none of the silents stand alone on a DVD) and two of the discs containing an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (in probably the worst condition you?ve ever seen them, especially if you?ve been spoiled by the Universal-released episodes), they?re a tremendous bargain.
Note, these aren?t all of Hitchcock?s early movies. Several, such as Champagne and Juno and the Paycock, aren?t out on DVD at all. Also note that these aren?t all mystery/suspense films. The Farmer?s Wife is a comedy, The Ring is a boxing/love story, Easy Virtue, Skin Game, and The Manxman are melodramas, and Jamaica Inn is a period piece. But it?s neat to finish one of these and then watch, say, The 39 Steps and see an early glimpse into the director Hitch would later become.
One painful caveat: The Farmer?s Wife, a silent comedy, was quite entertaining, but it was also nearly an hour longer than its 97-minute listed running time. Everytime I thought the farmer would finally choose a wife, another plot twist came up. After 2+ hours I started to consider hitting the FF button. I read somewhere that it?s a common error in silent films to have them run at the wrong speed--unfortunately this one runs too slow. If you can forego the music, I?d consider watching it in a slight fast forward mode!"
Wait for the new Hitchcock releases.
Philip J. Poon | 07/21/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"These DVDs are "Laserlight" releases which mean that they have very poor quality picture and sound.Wait for the new Hitchcock Box sets which have clear picture and sound plus documentaries and other extras.The superb Criterion versions are also a good choice.If it's introduced by Tony Curtis,then it's Laserlight,avoid it!"
Offset dialog screens
Philip J. Poon | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 08/31/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Story and picture quality aside, it is very annoying that the film seems to have been transferred off center. From the opening titles to the dialog boxes, anywhere from one to three letters of the printing are missing on the left side of the screen. I guess you get what you pay for."
No Thanx , Man
E. Parsons | 06/25/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This film, like most of his early work, is for Hitchcock aficionados only. I am an admirer of Hitchcock and also enjoy old British films, but I still found this movie tough going, not least because of the 110 mins running time. The picture quality of this Laserlight DVD is not perfect, but it is perfectly watchable and probably a lot better than you'd expect for the price. The musical score is also okay, but nothing to write home about. Laserlight do however pose a mystery that Hitch himself would have been proud of. This DVD has no commentary, no documentary and no trailer, not even one of those awful Tony Curtis intros. So why do Laserlight describe this DVD as a 'Special Edition' ?"