Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection
An equal emphasis on the blood and the lust
Reviewed by Kimberley Jones, Fri., Dec. 5, 2008
Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection (Lifeboat/Spellbound/Notorious/The Paradine Case/Sabotage/Young and Innocent/Rebecca/The Lodger: A Story of the london Fog)MGM, $119.98
Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo: Special Editions (Universal Legacy Series)Universal Studios, $26.98 each
In recalling Hitchcock's most iconic moments, it may be the creepy-crawly ones that come to mind first – a sky blackened with birds, a screech of violins heralding chocolate syrup's circle down the drain – but dig a little deeper, and you'll remember the kisses. A heavenly Grace Kelly filling the frame in slo-mo, the sound dropped out (the better to hear the celestial trumpets). Eva Marie Saint tunneling into Cary Grant's arms. Grant, yet again, making little lippings with Ingrid Bergman. That one – one of Notorious' most notorious scenes – was a concession to the censors: Kisses came with seconds-long caps, so Hitch stuck it to the prudes by pulling the lovers back ever so often, to nuzzle in a neck, nibble at an ear, before sliding back into a kiss that might as well have been magnetized. In Premiere Collection's DVD extra, "The Ultimate Romance: The Making of Notorious," Peter Bogdanovich recalls a conversation he had with Hitchcock about the inspiration for that scene, in which the lovers are so intertwined, even their breaths seem to come as one. While on a transcontinental train-crossing, Hitchcock spied out the window an adolescent boy pissing against a brick wall, as his best girl held on to him, looking up, down, all around, but never loosening her clutch. Bogdanovich does his best Hitchcock imitation: "Romance must not be interrupted, even for urinating."
So then, yes, Hitch was a romantic, but a complicated one. His movies were never about just love, and his love was never just about love, but love/hate. The three releases in the Universal trilogy – plucked from Hitch's most prolific period – exemplify that: Psycho's Oedipal mess, Vertigo's near-necrophilia, even Rear Window's fence-sitting, in which Jimmy Stewart actually requires more than half a second to determine if Grace Kelly is a keeper.
The Premiere Collection is more for the Hitchcock completist – The Paradine Case makes yet another case for obsessive love, but it's really only interesting in an academic sense as the last, and most troubled, of Hitchock's collaborations with producer David O. Selznick. The set also includes the far-superior Rebecca, the Du Maurier adaptation with which Selznick lured Hitch to America, and Spellbound, not one of the canonical works, noteworthy mostly for its Dalí dream sequence and dabblings in psychotherapy. Oh, and a killer of a last shot, in which a revolver turns away from our hero and on to the camera and, by extension, the viewer. Hitchcock's love/hate stretched to the audience itself, so it shouldn't surprise anyone he turned a gun on the people who put money in his pocket and fed his habit for bloodlust – with an equal emphasis on the blood and the lust.