Thursday, December 1, 2011
In a weak moment (on 5/9/11), I picked up the Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins collection, which may have been a mistake.
The set includes 20 Hitch films, most of which are in the public domain, giving companies like Mill Creek Entertainment the ability to put 20 old movies together in a set for pennies on the dollar. They did the same thing with John Wayne.
Of course, most of these films are in shoddy condition, and the Amazon reviews are mixed, pointing to faulty DVDs that won't play properly. So far, I haven't noticed any playability problems, but as for print quality, these appear to be U-matic transfers — mediocre but watchable.
Four DVDs of Hitch for $5? Count me in. I'll look past flawed prints if I can get 20 films outright and watch them on my own entertainment system and at my own pace. Renting 20 films on Netflix would take me weeks — way more expensive and time consuming, and that assumes Netflix has all of these films available (not sure there and don't feel like checking).
Enter reality. This comes on the heels of picking up the Masterpiece Collection, another 14 Hitch films. Then I found the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection, which adds another eight to the pile (two of those films are also in the above 20-film set). Then I took the plunge on the Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection, adding nine more. I've suddenly added more than 50 movies to this project, a few of which are downright clunkers to which I have no personal or academic attachment, and most of which I've never even seen. Oops? What am I supposed to say about them all?
Hitchcock's film work largely has been a black hole for me over the years, so I don't have buyer's remorse, exactly. I've seen several of his greats — Psycho, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, The Lady Vanishes — but I don't count Hitchcock as a real influence, and I'm not satisfied with how much I've seen of his work.
I may have overcompensated.
Most of Hitch's films are lessons in character development, pacing, maintaining suspense, and structure. I still fancy myself a screenwriter with a lot to learn, and Hitch seems like a teacher whose classes I've always seemed to miss until now.
All that said, this set presents some logistical problems. I'll treat the 14 films in The Masterpiece Collection normally, watching each title as I get there alphabetically because those films are truly masterpieces and I have stuff to say. I'll do the same with the 9 films in the Signature Collection and the 6 films in the Premiere Collection.
As for The Legend Begins set, maybe two of these films are truly "masterpieces" (The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, if you're curious) so I don't need to write 20 individual entries for a mixed bag of mostly awful looking and sounding films I've never seen and may never watch again, and about which I feel nothing but curiosity and satisfaction for finding a bargain. So one entry is all you get for the entire collection, filed under "H," and this is it.