Rear Window appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie displayed some problems that seemed to be inherent to the source, but it looked better than I’ve seen.
Sharpness generally presented a fairly well-focused and accurate picture, but this lapsed on some occasions. At times the movie appeared a little soft and fuzzy, but it remained pretty accurate the majority of the time. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and I noticed no mild edge enhancement. In terns of print flaws, I saw occasional specks but nothing significant.
Colors tended to look pretty good. Due to the film stock, they could tend toward a brownish feel, but they usually appeared fairly full, and they could really pop at times, too. Blacks were reasonably dense and dark, and shadows offered fairly nice clarity. Even with the image’s inconsistencies, this was the best representation of the film I’ve seen and I felt pleased with it.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it held up well after almost 60 years. Speech seemed solid, as the lines were relatively natural given their age. Effects were a little thin, but these seemed typical of the period and presented no significant problems.
Music was appropriately distant. Since almost none of this took the form of a proper score, music really acted like another effect, and these parts sounded accurately thin and detached. Ultimately, the soundtrack seemed more than adequate for its age and ambitions.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the last DVD from 2008? Audio was warmer and more accurate, while visuals seemed tighter, cleaner and more dynamic. This was a good improvement over the prior release.
The Blu-ray includes most of the 2008 DVD’s components, and we open with an audio commentary from film historian John Fawell. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that looks at cinematic techniques, the complex set, cast and performances, themes and interpretation, music and story.
How much you like this commentary will depend on what you want from it. If you desire good introspection about the story and characters along with plenty of themes and interpretation, then you’ll enjoy the track. If you want concrete information about the flick, you’ll not go home happy.
Honestly, I’d have preferred more details about the movie’s creation, especially since Fawell’s effort sags at times and the piece suffers from too much dead air. He does give us some nice insights, but I’d like better balance between interpretation and information.
Some Production Photographs appear in a separate section. These stills are presented as a running video montage. Backed by Franz Waxman’s score, the images mix advertisements with shots from the set, and the entire package lasts three minutes and seven seconds. I like the video presentation and think this program offers a nice compendium of pictures.
Two trailers appear on the disc, both of which come from reissues of Rear Window. The first arrived in a post-Psycho re-release, while the other arrived in the mid-Eighties and also promotes the re-appearance of four other Hitchcock films.
Next comes a documentary called Rear Window Ethics. This 55-minute and 10-second program combines modern interviews with filmmakers Curtis Hanson and Peter Bogdanovich, author Robin Wood, Hitchcock’s daughter Pat, Paramount publicity director Herb Steinberg, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and actress Georgine “Miss Torso” Darcy, plus restoration supervisors Robert Harris and James Katz. Their statements are interspersed with film clips and photos from the set, and we also hear a few sound bites from an old Bogdanovich interview with Hitchcock.
All in all, this is a solid look at the creation of the film. We find a lot of good information about the production and the various participants, and we also learn about the history of the restoration. The “before and after” shots shown are questionable as the two mainly look different based on brightness, but I still enjoyed this view of the classic film and its legacy.
A Conversation With Screenwriter John Michael Hayes offers exactly what the title states: an interview with the writer of the script. This 13-minute and 10-second piece uses the same format found during “Ethics”: an interview combined with film clips and production photos. The only difference is that we only find one participant: Hayes.
I’d assume that he gets his own featurette because his material is so good it deserved to stand on its own rather than get mixed in with the others. We get a terrific discussion of the history of the film plus a lot of great anecdotes about working with Hitchcock and the others. It’s a solid little piece that added a lot to my appreciation of the movie.
Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master goes for 25 minutes, 12 seconds and features Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, film critic David Sterritt, and filmmakers Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, John Carpenter, Randy Thom, Guillermo del Toro, Gary Rydstrom, Bill Pankow, Craig McKay, Mark Goldblatt, Eli Roth, and Joe Carnahan. “Eyes” looks at all the visual techniques Hitchcock used throughout his movies. The various filmmakers and others offer a fine appreciation for the work. We get a very nice dissection of the different methods and learn a lot about how Hitchcock worked his magic.
Next we locate the 23-minute and 31-second Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock. It provides notes from Goldblatt, Friedkin, Sterritt, Thom, Rydstrom, Pankow, Hitchcock’s Music author Jack Sullivan, and filmmaker Mark Stoechinger. As implied by the title, “Barriers” offers an auditory counterpoint to “Eyes”. It digs into Hitchcock’s use of sound and music throughout his flicks. The program creates a nice complement to “Eyes” and works equally as well.
Masters of Cinema delivers a 33-minute, 39-second 1972 TV program. We see Hitchcock interviewed (separately) by Ingrid Bergman’s daughter Pia Lindstrom and film historian William K. Everson. Hitchcock chats about why he likes to make scary movies, working with actors, themes in his films, aspects of his early career, and some other thoughts connected to his work. Hitchcock was always a delightful, insightful subject, and this turns into an enjoyable program.
For a chat between legendary directors, we go to the 16-minute and 14-second Hitchcock/Truffaut. This provides an audio excerpt of Francois Truffaut’s extensive 1962 interviews with Hitchcock. They discuss the adaptation of the short story, aspects of how Hitchcock tells the tale visually, characters and their behavior, and a few other elements of the production.
Due to all the translation time, these Truffaut interviews tend to move slowly, and they’re not always packed with insight. Still, it’s great to hear from Hitchcock himself instead of from surrogates, and there’s enough good material to make the chat worth a listen.
1954’s Rear Window stands with the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s material. The film moves at a slow but compelling pace and uses simple methods to ensnare the viewer. The Blu-ray offers inconsistent but usually positive visuals along with positive audio and a fairly nice set of supplements. This easily becomes the best home video version of Rear Window.
To rate this film, visit the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection review of REAR WINDOW