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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
Cast:
Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Bassermann, Robert Benchley, Edmund Gwenn, Eduardo Ciannelli Harry Davenport
Writing Credits:
Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison

Tagline:
The thrill spectacle of the year!

Synopsis:
Johnny Jones is an action reporter on a New York newspaper. The editor appoints him European correspondent because he is fed up with the dry, reports he currently gets. Jones' first assignment is to get the inside story on a secret treaty agreed between two European countries by the famous diplomat, Mr. Van Meer. However things don't go to plan and Jones enlists the help of a young woman to help track down a group of spies.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio:
English LPCM Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 2/18/2014

Bonus:
• “Hollywood Propaganda and World War II” Featurette
• “Visual Effects in Foreign Correspondent” Featurette
• “Dick Cavett Interviews Hitchcock” 1972 TV Program
• 1946 Radio Adaptation
• “Have You Heard?” Photo-Drama
• Trailer
• DVD Copy
• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Foreign Correspondent: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1940)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson / Brian Ludovico (February 6, 2014)

In 1940’s Foreign Correspondent, we focus on the employees at a newspaper called the Daily Globe, whose editors don’t feel pleased with the milquetoast reports it gets from London-based reporter Stebbins (Robert Benchley). Eventually, they send hotheaded Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) to replace Stebbins, and he covers an important peace conference in Amsterdam.

Now under the pen name “Huntley Haverstock”, Johnny happens to catch a ride with keynote speaker Van Meer (Albert Basserman). Johnny asks him dutiful reporter-type questions, and as a true diplomat does, Van Meer remains friendly but vague, though he seems downbeat about prospects of peace.

When they arrive, Van Meer vanishes in the sea of international diplomats, while Johnny flirts with a beautiful young woman named Carol Fisher (Laraine Day). Strangely, Van Meer doesn’t show up at the conference at all, forcing Carol to make an improvised speech about their cause.

At a second gathering of diplomats the next day, Johnny sees Van Meer coming up the steps and runs out to greet him. Van Meer doesn’t seem to recognize him, but that’s the least of his problems: with Johnny right next to him, a reporter shoots Van Meer in the face. Johnny chases the murderer through the crowds and eventually ends up in a car with Carol and British reporter Scott Ffolliott (George Sanders), as they track the murderer into the Dutch countryside. We follow Johnny as he encounters a mix of plots, machinations and mysteries.

In Correspondent, we find a film that doesn’t belong in the second class of the Hitchcock filmography, one that is only there by virtue of Hitch’s enormous body of masterpieces. No, Foreign Correspondent doesn’t have Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly or Ingrid Bergman, but the performances are almost uniformly outstanding. For a man who was once credited with comparing actors to cattle, Hitch sure knew how to handle them.

Nonetheless, Hitchcock movies don’t evoke “performances” immediately; when someone says “Hitchcockian,” they’re talking about suspense. It’s in this area that Foreign Correspondent really brings home the bacon, as few films of any day can match the pitch-perfection with which each scene plays. Each action sequence is carefully spaced, which helps Foreign Correspondent remain gripping right down to its amazing finale.

Foreign Correspondent has its minor downfalls. For me, it’s the romance angle featuring Johnny and Carol. I know that the political climate of 1940 often gave people a sense of urgency that led to these fast associations, and I know Hollywood felt like every movie should have a love scene. This one falters because I can’t buy that Johnny might jeopardize a life or the whole of Europe because he doesn’t want to hurt his girl’s feelings.

As the film goes on, it gets heavy on maudlin propaganda. It remains important to understand the political context of the film, released smack-dab during the Battle of Britain, but the tone becomes a little much. Nonetheless, this is forgivable in an otherwise still-fresh feeling film.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

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

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