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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
Cast:
Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, Diane Baker, Martin Gabel, Louise Latham, Bob Sweeney, Milton Selzer, Mariette Hartley, Alan Napier
Writing Credits:
Winston Graham (novel), Jay Presson Allen

Tagline:
Thief ... Liar ... Cheat ... she was all of these and he knew it!

Synopsis:
Hitchcock creates a masterful psychological thriller about a compulsive liar and thief (Tippi Hedren), who winds up marrying the very man (Sean Connery) she attempts to rob. When a terrible accident pushes her over the edge, her husband struggles to help her face her demons as the plot races to an inescapable conclusion.

Box Office:
Budget
$3.0 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 131 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/30/2000

Bonus:
• "The Trouble With Marnie" Documentary
• “The Marnie Archives”
• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Notes
• Cast and Filmmakers


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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Marnie: Collector's Edition (1964)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 31, 2006)

Thanks largely to the series of excellent DVDs produced by Universal, I'm slowly working my way through many of Alfred Hitchcock's films. One pattern has started to emerge: I seem to prefer his movies that go more for a horror vibe. As such, Psycho and The Birds have been my favorite Hitchcock flicks so far.

I must admit that I've haven't been as enchanted by his psychological thrillers. Actually, I rather liked 1940's Rebecca but despite its enormously strong reputation, 1958's Vertigo left me vaguely flat.

Add 1964's Marnie to the list of good Hitchcock movies that just don't do a lot for me. For the most part, I found the film to be moderately compelling, but it seemed more like stock Hitchcock and lacked much of the flair of his other efforts.

One aspect I disliked about Marnie stemmed from the dime-store psychology it featured. Plenty of movies utilize psychological themes in their stories, but few hinge so strongly on a Freudian point of view. The whole movie revolves around us eventually finding out Marnie's ('Tippi' Hedren) deep dark secret, which is presented as the key to her problems. The entire thing is built up so heavily that when the revelation is revealed, it seems almost anti-climactic and predictable, and the fact that all of her issues and the things that trigger her "episodes" all clearly relate back to this one event stretches things.

The psychoanalytic bent of Marnie also means that we're "treated" to scenes in which her male pursuer Mark (Sean Connery) runs Marnie through a series of psychological exercises such as free association. As I later learned in this DVD's documentary, the film was supposed to include a character who was a psychiatrist but those bits were incorporated into Mark's role to make the part more appealing to stars. Unfortunately, that makes for some absurd viewing as Connery tries to play amateur psychologist and figure out what's wrong with Marnie.

I had a hard time figuring out why he cared so much. Yeah, Hedren's a babe, and I guess some guys like a challenge, but Marnie exhibited very few positive characteristics other than her beauty. The fact she's a raving nutbag should have been enough to scare Mark away, but I guess the aspiring shrink in him couldn't resist the experience.

It didn't help that Hedren offers a pretty bad performance. Marnie has to go through a wide variety of emotional states and Hedren simply wasn't up to the task. She did perfectly well for herself in The Birds, but that role required little from her other than icy beauty and abject fear. When required to flesh out a performance and create a very complicated person, Hedren can't do it, and Marnie comes across as little more than peeved most of the time.

Connery seems decent as Mark, though his performance also lacks complexity. He appears somewhat stuck in Bond mode and doesn't do much with the emotional range needed for the part. He remains fairly stoic and suave throughout the film. Actually, this helps Marnie in an odd way; since we know Bond loves a challenge, we can better understand 007 pursuing this babe than we could accept a more fully-realized normal person doing it. (However, I doubt Bond would tolerate Marnie's refusal to allow physical contact - somehow I can't see him work this hard to get into Marnie's pants.)

In addition to the less-than-convincing performances from the leads, Marnie simply is much too long. The film runs for 130 minutes, which is at least 30 too many. The story would seem redundant in the best of circumstances - over and over we see how screwed up Marnie is - but the extended length makes the reinforcement of these points even more tiresome. I think a shorter, tighter cut would have made the film much more compelling.

Though I'm not sure how much more interesting it could become, just because all of the "plot twists" seem telegraphed. I don't want to discuss them in case they may spoil it for you, but we easily figure out the background to Marnie's various aversions - the color red, men, loud noises - which makes the climax all the less stimulating and revealing.

Hitchcock does little to make the story more exciting. A few scenes appear especially well-staged - one in which Marnie tries to sneak out of a building past a cleaning woman is terrific - but most use such obvious and overbearing symbolism that they seem more like imitation Hitchcock than the real thing. Despite all these criticisms, I still found Marnie to be watchable and mildly entertaining, but it clearly pales in comparison with Hitchcock's better work.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

Marnie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mediocre transfer at best, this one suffered from a mix of problems.

Sharpness appeared rather inconsistent. Some of this looked intentional; Hitchcock loved to use soft focus on his leading ladies, so most shots of Hedren seemed mildly fuzzy. A good number of other scenes looked reasonably crisp and well-defined, but softness affected much of the film even when it didn't include Hedren. There was a lack of delineation to too many parts of the movie.

Moiré effects and jagged edges popped up occasionally, and I noticed mild edge enhancement through the film. The print itself betrayed moderate grain throughout much of the movie plus a mix of other defects. The presentation suffered from specks, marks, spots, nicks and other small blemishes. These didn’t become overwhelming, but they created fairly consistent distractions.

Colors appeared muted for the most part but looked generally accurate. I rarely viewed any bright or bold hues, but what I saw seemed acceptable. Black levels were nicely deep and rich - especially as seen through Connery's dark suits - and shadow detail appeared perfectly fine, with appropriately dense images. Marnie lost points for softness and for print flaws, and those meant I couldn’t give it a grade above a “C”.

The film's monaural soundtrack seemed similarly unexceptional. Dialogue sounded vaguely muffled and flat but remained clear and intelligible at all times. Bernard Herrmann's score appeared crisp and bright, though somewhat thin, and effects were similarly accurately defined but without much heft. All aspects of the mix lack any noticeable low end. Even during the thunderstorms, the audio remained bound to the mid-range. The track lacked distortion or any form of flaws such as tape hiss or crackling. For a film from 1964, the audio for Marnie sounded acceptable but no better.

Marnie arrives as another in Universal's terrific "Collector's Edition" series. While it doesn't match up with some of those other DVDs - both Psycho and The Birds provide superior supplements - Marnie nonetheless gives us some quality extras.

First up is a terrific documentary called The Trouble With Marnie. This piece runs for 58 minutes and 20 seconds and incorporates the usual melange of contemporary interviews with surviving participants and liberal helpings of film clips and production shots. It also presents a nice selection of script pages and memos as well. In the former category we find cast members Hedren, Diane Baker, and Louise Latham, rejected screenwriters Joseph Stefano and Evan Hunter, final screenwriter Jay Presson Allen, daughter Pat Hitchcock O'Connell, production designer Robert Boyle, makeup artist Howard Smit, unit manager Hilton Green, Hitchcock historian Robin Wood, filmmaker, Bernard Herrman biographer Steven C. Smith, and Hitchcock fan Peter Bogdanovich.

As usual, this is a fine piece that succinctly and entertainingly summarizes the production of Marnie. The participants offer a lot of great information and anecdotes, and they all appear candid about the film and are not afraid to criticize it. I found it most valuable to hear from screenwriters Stefano and Hunter, since their work got left behind, but the entire program includes a lot of strong material. Frankly, I enjoyed the documentary more than I liked the film itself.

The Marnie Archives presents a collection of movie posters plus production and publicity stills. Unlike the usual "stillframe" pieces, this one presents the material in a running nine-minute video montage that features Herrmann's score along with the images; Universal used this method on their "Classic Monsters" DVDs but I hadn't seen it elsewhere until now. Anyway, it's a nice series of stills that deserves a look.

Marnie's theatrical trailer appears. Like many other Hitchcock previews, this four minute and 45 second clip is quite entertaining and amusing. Hitchcock's ads were always much more clever and witty than others, and this one's no exception.

Finally, the DVD includes some decent text production notes that provide a few additional details about the creation of the film. Cast and Filmmakers provides brief and sketchy biographies for four actors (Hedren, Connery, Baker, and Martin Gabel) and Hitchcock plus a "Recommendations" section that just shows some titles and package art; no trailers appear in that area. While this DVD contains some nice extras - particularly the documentary - I still felt it didn't compete with the more compelling and well-rounded supplements found on Psycho and The Birds.

The same goes for Marnie itself, which offers a mildly provocative experience but doesn't live up to the standards Hitchcock established in those other films. As for the DVD, the picture and sound are perfectly mediocre, and the extras are good but not great. Chalk this one up as a middling effort from both Hitchcock and Universal; it merits a rental, but I can't espouse anything more than that.

To rate this film visit the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection review of MARNIE

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main