Foreign Correspondent appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently satisfying presentation.
Sharpness worked well. Only a smidgen of softness materialized, and when it did so, it seemed to reflect the original photography. The majority of the film showed solid delineation and accuracy. I noticed virtually no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. With a nice layer of grain, I witnessed no indications of intrusive noise reduction.
Blacks looked tight and deep, and contrast seemed solid. The movie exhibited a nicely silver sheen that depicted the black and white photography well. Print flaws were a non-factor, as the movie suffered from nary a speck, mark or other defect. This was a strong representation of the source material.
As for the film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack, it seemed typical for its era, which meant nothing about the audio excelled, but it remained solid for its age. Speech demonstrated pretty positive clarity and appeared surprisingly natural. Some lines were slightly edgy, but the dialogue didn’t seem as thin and shrill as I expected. Effects were acceptably clean and accurate; they didn’t demonstrate much range, but they lacked distortion and were fairly concise.
Music seemed similarly restricted but sounded fine for its age. The score and songs were reasonably full and replicated the source material acceptably. The track lacked source flaws like pops or clicks. Ultimately, Correspondent provided a fine track for a flick from 1940.
When we shift to the set’s extras, we launch with Hollywood Propaganda and World War II. In this 25-minute, 17-second piece, writer Mark Harris discusses the way movies in the USA responded to the war effort as well as the development of Foreign Correspondent. This becomes a good overview of that film’s production as well as the use of propaganda in the era.
During the 18-minute, 55-second Visual Effects in Foreign Correspondent, we hear from visual effects expert Craig Barron. He chats about the different techniques used to bring various set pieces and elements to life in Correspondent. Barron’s remarks combine with a nice array of archival materials for a solid look at the subject matter.
Archival pieces follow. From 1972, Dick Cavett Interviews Hitchcock fills one hour, two minutes, two seconds and presents a look at the director’s career. They discuss aspects of Hitchcock’s life and career. Fans will know many of Hitchcock’s stories – such as the origins of his focus on fear/horror or the definition of a “MacGuffin” – but he remained charming and enjoyable. Even without much unique content – and only a quick mention of Foreign Correspondent around the 28-minute mark – this gives us a likable piece.
Next comes a Radio Adaptation. Aired July 25, 1946, it goes for 25 minutes, 46 seconds and stars Joseph Cotten in the lead role. Given the show’s brevity, it eliminates many of the movie’s story points; indeed, it summarizes everything that precedes Van Meer’s shooting in about two minutes! The radio program also tells the tale as a flashback, which makes sense given it broadcast date; it couldn’t treat the events that led to war as “current”.
The radio show offers a brisk version of the story but not a terribly satisfying one. It’s simply impossible to offer a good reworking of the tale in one-fourth the time. I do like Cotton as Johnny, though; he would’ve been better than McCrea in the film. It’s fun to give the radio piece a listen, even if it isn’t really very good.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find “Have You Heard?”, a “photo-drama” Hitchcock created for a 1942 issue of Life magazine. Via stillframes, we see a mix of pictures and text meant to remind Americans that “loose lips sink ships”. It’s not especially entertaining, but it’s cool to find as an archival piece.
The package also includes a DVD copy of Correspondent. Disc One provides the film while Disc Two delivers supplements; the DVD gives us the same extras as the Blu-ray.
Finally, the set comes with a 16-page booklet. It presents credits, photos and an essay from film writer James Naramore. The booklet complements the release well.
Foreign Correspondent remains on the outside looking in when it comes to the all time pantheon of classic Hitchcock films, but it’s not at the back of the bus, either. It’s got most of the Hitchcock trademarks: suspense, action, fun, great characters and sharp, memorable dialogue. The Blu-ray provides excellent visuals as well as good audio and bonus materials. Chalk up a winning release for an exciting movie.
To rate this film visit the original review of FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT