Welcome to the first part of my guide to Hitchcock on DVD!
I’ve been running the Hitchcock DVD Site for over 3 years and, in that time, I’ve built up a collection of nearly 200 Hitchcock DVDs. Over the course of the coming weeks and months, I’m going to try and cover Hitchcock’s entire career and, at the same time, discuss which are the best DVDs to buy.
To build up the best collection of Hitchcock on DVD, you need to have a region free DVD player. You also need to be able to view both PAL and NTSC format DVDs — this requires either a DVD player that can convert from one to the other, or a television set that can display both. To get the best of Hitchcock on DVD, you’ll be buying DVDs from around the world!
I’m going to split Hitchcock’s career up into decades, so the first article will cover the 1920s and that last will cover his final films from the 1970s. Out of the 53 major films Hitchcock directed, 50 are now officially available on DVD.
A quick side note — for the film year, I’m using the IMDB entry.
1920 to 1929 — The Silent Years (part 1)
In 1920, Hitchcock began working as a title designer at the recently opened Islington Studios, owned by Famous Players-Lasky.
Between 1921 and 1922, Hitchcock designed the title cards for at least a dozen films — sadly all of these films are thought to be lost with no surviving prints. Throughout this period, the enthusiastic young Hitchcock showed he was eager to learn and was soon helping out in other aspects of film production.
In 1922, Hitchcock was offered his first chance to direct. Sadly, “Number 13” was never completed.
Hitchcock then joined Michael Balcon‘s new company (which became Gainsborough Pictures). Under Balcon’s tutelage, Hitchcock took on other roles such as writing and art direction. Balcon also sent Hitchcock to the UFA studios in Germany, where he absorbed the expressionist style of Fritz Lang and F.W. Marnau.
According to BFI Screenonline, Granada International currently hold the UK rights to Hitchcock’s first film as a director. Although there have been rumours of a DVD release, the film is currently only available on bootleg DVDs.
The first of these appears to be a bootleg of a broadcast by Japanese satellite channel BS-2 (owned by NHK) and is taken from a Rohauer Collection print. The the second appears to be a recording from a German television broadcast.
Of the two, the German broadcast seems to be the most complete — the Rohauer print uses new(er) “Americanized” title cards and makes occasional small edits to the film.
I wouldn’t recommend paying too much for either of the DVDs — anything more than a few US dollars and the seller is making a profit.
Sadly (for Hitchcock fans anyway), this film disappeared from circulation within a decade of being released. All that’s left are a series of publicity stills and production photographs, many of which are reproduced in Dan Auiler’s “Hitchcock’s Secret Notebooks“.
This is arguably the first proper “Hitchcockian” film, and also marks Hitchcock’s first cameo appearance.
To date, the best releases of this film on DVD have been in Europe. To get a feel for the quality, take a look at this page which shows Mrs Bunting (played by Marie Ault). As you can see, the best quality releases use a tinted print:
- Hitchcock: The Early Years (Concorde, Germany, 2003)
- The Lodger (Video/Film Express, Netherlands, 2005)
All of the US releases I’ve seen have used lower quality “public domain” transfers.
Stay tuned for the next part of this guide, coming soon!