Vertigo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a highly impressive presentation.
Most of the time, sharpness excelled, as the majority of the movie offered great delineation. Despite Hitchcock’s penchant for soft focus on his leading ladies, this flick usually looked nicely detailed and distinctive. A few slightly tentative elements occurred, but not many, and as noted, these reflected photographic choices.
No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Light grain manifested through the film, and print flaws failed to materialize.
With a rich, vibrant palette, the disc’s colors offered a highlight. Abetted by tasteful use of HDR, the tones looked dynamic and full. Expect dazzling hues here.
Black levels appeared strong, with dark tones that seemed appropriate. Shadow detail was also positive, as “day for night” shots became the only “issues” in that regard, and those were inevitable.
HDR added power to whites and contrast. I doubt the film ever looked this good theatrically, as the 4K became a terrific transfer.
Downconverted to DTS-HD MA 7.1, the film's remixed DTS X soundtrack performed fine as well. The soundstage wasn't terribly broad or deep, but it seemed just wide and involving enough to create a good effect.
It's a gentle, ambient mix for the most part, with only light sounds usually emanating from the front side or rear channels. Car noises were the most prominent effects we heard, and we even witnessed some solid panning between channels from them. Despite the non-aggressive nature of the mix, I found it to be satisfying.
The quality of the audio was positive. Dialogue sounded reasonably natural and the lines remained easily intelligible.
Bernard Herrmann's score really came to life here, as the music seemed smooth and packed good low end. Effects were fairly accurate and showed nice clarity. I’m not a huge fan of modern remixes, but this one felt satisfactory.
Note that the quality worked just as well for the included DTS-HD MA monaural track. It showed no decrease in fidelity, though it tended to seem a little louder.
Also note that some claim this disc’s mono mix simply provides a “fold-down” of the multichannel track, not the true mono from 1958, and this means it comes with effects elements not in the original.
I compared a few scenes and at least in those, the DTS X and mono mixes differed.
For instance, when Madeleine jumps into the bay, the effect that accompanies this act doesn’t sound the same, as it brought more of a “click” in the mono. I compared to the mono track on the 2005 DVD and found it to sound the same as the 2020 mono, with the DTS X as the odd man out. Also, a later scene with waves showed differences between the 2005/2020 mono and the 2020 DTS X.
Again, I didn’t compare the 2020 mono and the DTS X for every scene, but I found enough differences between the two to believe the 4K UHD’s mono does not offer a fold down of the multichannel track. Also, it pairs closely with the prior mono, so I suspect it’s the original.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? The DTS X mix seemed a bit broader than the old DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, but the limitations of the 62-year-old source meant the two didn’t differ much.
In terms of visuals, they offered obvious improvements, as the 4K seemed better defined and showed stronger colors and blacks. It also lost the minor print flaws of the BD. This was a gorgeous 4K that became the definitive visual presentation of Vertigo.
As we hit the extras, we start with an audio commentary from filmmaker William Friedkin. In his running, screen-specific discussion, Friedkin talks about the movie’s themes and interpretation, cast and crew, and a variety of minor film-related topics.
At times Friedkin manages to provide some good insight, and he also contributes a few interesting stories such as his experience with Hitchcock as a TV director. Decades later, Friedkin seems to remain bitter about the way Hitchcock treated him back then.
If the commentary included more material like that, it’d be a bigger success. Unfortunately, Friedkin often does little more than narrate the movie. He does this well, as he makes it sound like he really has something to say, but he doesn’t; much of the time, he simply describes the action on-screen. This makes the commentary sporadically interesting but not valuable as a whole.
Obsessed With Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece offers a 29-minute, 19-second documentary about the film - well, sort of, as the program also discusses the movie's restoration. Narrated by Roddy McDowall, we find interviews with participants, film clips and both production stills and behind the scenes footage; this is intercut with material about the restoration.
In regard to the interviews, we hear from associate producer Herbert Coleman, restoration team leaders Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, art director Henry Bumstead, script supervisor Peggy Robertson, co-screenwriter Samuel Taylor, Hitchcock’s daughter Pat, filmmaker Martin Scorsese, writer Maxwell Anderson, production manager CO “Doc” Erickson, June Van Dyke of the Edith Head Collection, and actors Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes.
The participants get into Hitchcock’s desire to shoot a mystery set in San Francisco, developing the script, casting, locations and sets, costumes, score, and titles. As mentioned, we also get tidbits about the restoration.
This isn't a bad program but it seems superficial and lacks the depth of the documentaries that accompany Psycho and The Birds. This show provides some good information but simply zips through its subjects too quickly and without enough depth.
Next comes the 54-minute, 47-second Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborators. This area breaks into four smaller components: “Saul Bass: Title Champ” (10:32), “Edith Head: Dressing the Master’s Movies” (17:10), “Bernard Herrmann: Hitchcock’s Maestro” (14:42) and “Alma: The Master’s Muse” (12:23).
Across these, we hear from Scorsese, Pat Hitchcock, credit designer Saul Bass, title designer Kyle Cooper, Saul Bass author Pat Kirkham, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock author David Sterritt, Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, Edith Head author David Chierchetti, costume designers Ruth Myers, Ruth Carter and Albert Wolsky, Hitchcock’s Films author Jack Sullivan, composers John Murphy and Nathan Barr, A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann author Steven C. Smith, Hitchcock’s granddaughter Mary O’Connell Stone, and filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter, and Joe Carnahan.
The various featurettes offer nice glimpses of folks who added so much to Hitchcock’s films. Though the pieces tell us about the participants’ interactions with Hitchcock, they don’t limit themselves to those areas, as they spread into other aspects of the subjects’ careers. These turn into enjoyable, informative segments.
For a chat between legendary directors, we go to the 14-minute, 18-second Hitchcock/Truffaut. This provides an audio excerpt of Francois Truffaut’s extensive 1962 interviews with Hitchcock.
They discuss the film’s visuals, the influence of dreams on Vertigo, script and story issues, themes and characters, and some aspects of the flick Hitchcock doesn’t like. The chat moves slowly due to the lag in translation, but it includes some nice insights.
The two-minute, eight-second Foreign Censorship Ending isn’t as exciting as its title might imply. It wraps things up with less ambiguity and makes the movie less effective. Still, it’s cool to see.
Trailers for both the film's original release and for the restored movie's theatrical run appear.
We also get a featurette called 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era. In this eight-minute, 50-second piece, we hear from Moguls and Movie Stars writer/producer Jon Wilkman, Hollywood Left and Right author Steven J. Ross, former MCA Executive VP Tom Wertheimer, NBC Universal Director of Archives and Collections Jeff Pirtle, son Casey Wasserman, former MCA/Universal president/COO Sid Sheinberg, former executive assistant Melody Sherwood and former MCA Executive VP/Director Skip Paul.
The program looks at the life and career of Lew Wasserman, long-time MCA/Universal president. Much of this devolves into praise, but the show does tell us a bit about Wasserman.
The package provides a Blu-ray copy of Vertigo, and it includes a feature absent from the 4K: The Vertigo Archives, where we find a mix of still materials. These include production design art, storyboards, production photos, marketing materials and text information.
In all, this area features 409 frames of materials. Many are quite good; I especially like some of the publicity photos that feature Stewart and two Novaks, and the various Saul Bass poster concepts are cool. However, the interface bites.
These elements were ported over straight from the old Vertigo LD and don’t allow easy access to the various areas. That means that to get to the text at the end, you have to step through hundreds of earlier images.
Often regarded as Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest achievement, I admit Vertigo tends to leave me a little cold. However, I recognize that it offers a well-crafted tale with plenty of psychological depth and intrigue on display. The 4K UHD boasts excellent visuals as well as positive audio and a good collection of bonus materials. This becomes the best representation of the film to date.
Note that as of September 2020, this 4K UHD version of Vertigo appears only as part of the four-film “Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection”. It also includes 4K UHD versions of Psycho, Rear Window and The Birds.
To rate this film, visit the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection review of VERTIGO