Now on Blu-ray: Alfred Hitchock’s ‘Rebecca’ Haunts the Criterion Collection

Rebecca Criterion

Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense and one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of all time, came to America in the late ‘30s following a string of hits in his native England. The director was leaving Europe before the outbreak of World War II and the opportunity to use all sorts of new and advancing cinematic technology enticed the technical master of cinema. His first American feature would team the larger than life director with another immense figure in cinematic history, the brash and bombastic producer David O. Selznick, who was just coming off one of the biggest movies in history with Gone with the Wind, which netted the producer immense profits and a Best Picture Academy Award.

The two would be collaborating on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel Rebecca, a project that Hitchcock had interest in adapting while still in England. The resulting film was an instant classic, acclaimed upon its release and taking home the Oscar for best picture; Rebecca would mark the only time that a film by Alfred Hitchcock would take home the top Oscar, though he would lose out on the Oscar for directing to John Ford and his work on The Grapes of Wrath. (He would never win an Oscar for directing.) Now Hitchcock’s astounding American debut finds itself on Blu-ray with a stunning new edition from the vanguards of cinema, The Criterion Collection. Once again, Criterion has issued a classic film on Blu-ray with a gorgeous transfer that preserves the majestic black and white photography and an array of special features that dive into the film’s place in history, its technical achievements, and the contentious relationship between its producer and its director.

In a lot of ways, Rebecca isn’t the prototypical Hitchcock picture, something the director himself would echo in his famed conversation with François Truffaut in Hitchcock/Truffaut. Rebecca is a ghost story without a ghost, a murder mystery without an explicit act of murder. Instead of crafting a tale of escalating suspense as he would become famous for, Rebecca sees Hitchcock working in the realm of a psychological picture, a melodrama of escalating intrigue.

Joan Fontaine stars as “I,” a character that is never named throughout the 130 minutes of Rebecca. Fontaine’s young woman is a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates). The two are in Monte Carlo and the unnamed woman encounters a distressed Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) as he looks down upon the cliffs contemplating suicide. It’s not long before “I” and Maxim find themselves in a whirlwind romance, the two quickly marrying and the newlywed couple returning to Maxim’s massive estate Manderlay. Within the massive home, “I” encounters the ghost of Rebecca, Maxim’s late wife whose shadow looms over every corner. The new Mrs. de Winter finds herself creeped out by the housekeeper Ms. Danvers (Judith Anderson), whose presents a stern and cold demeanor towards the young woman who, in her mind, pales in comparison to the late Rebecca. The ongoing narrative around Manderlay is that Rebecca was a ravishing beauty and the love between her and Maxim was one for the ages, though it is soon revealed that Maxim didn’t care for his wife who was carrying out an affair with her cousin Jack Favel (George Sanders). Maxim confesses to his bride that he accidentally killed Rebecca after an argument where she revealed that she was pregnant with Jack’s child, and he set her body on a boat and sunk it in the shores off Manderlay.

When the body containing Rebecca’s body crashes on the shore, Maxim must craft a story where he claims to have misidentified the body of his deceased wife. An inquest is opened to find out just what happened, and Jack Favel seems sure that Maxim will go down for the murder of Rebecca except it’s revealed that she had cancer and her death is deemed a suicide. As Maxim and his wife drive back to Manderlay, they see the expansive estate set ablaze. Ms. Danvers stands within the flames of the decaying wreck and the camera zooms in on the embroidered R on a pillow as it’s engulfed in flames and the film ends. Before this most recent revisiting of Rebecca, I never realized what many have suspected in that the conclusion of Hitchcock’s first American picture may have given Orson Welles the inspiration for the Rosebud ending of Citizen Kane, each concluding with the camera zooming into flames incinerating the past.

The contentious relationship between David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock is well-documented in the Criterion edition of Rebecca. Following an essay by David Thomson, the liner notes also contain some of their correspondence where the two debate the extent to which they should be faithful to the novel. This relationship is further documented in a documentary about the making of the film that is one of many excellent special features on this edition of Rebecca. A conversation between Molly Haskel and Patricia White shed even more light on the Hitchcock and O. Selznick feud as does the audio commentary by Leonard J. Leff, but they also shed more light on Rebecca’s place in film history and how it marked the arrival of an iconic filmmaker into the Hollywood system.

Other special features that Criterion has rounded up for Rebecca include screen tests of various famed actresses for the role of “I,” including Viven Leigh, Anne Baxter, Loretta Young, and Margaret Sullavan. There’s also an isolated audio track just containing the film’s score and sound effects, something that’s always illuminating with Hitchcock because it helps viewers understand just how much of the story is conveyed purely though images – many of Hitchcock’s films could work perfectly as silent. Three radio version of Rebecca are also on the Blu-ray, including one by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. There are also a number of audio and video interviews with the cast and crew, including Joan Fontaine, but the stand out one is an interview with Hitchcock and Tom Snyder from 1973. All in all, the Criterion edition of Rebecca contains even more special features than normally expected from the premiere guardians of cinema history on home video.

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the biggest names in the history of cinema and it took many years for the master of suspense to be hailed as a master. During his heyday in Hollywood, Hitchcock was often written off as nothing more than a commercial filmmaker, a showman, and not the impeccable visual storyteller he’s hail as today. But for a brief period in 1940, Alfred Hitchcock had that acclaim but he had to share it with a man whom he had a difficult working relationship in David O. Selznick. The two did work together three more times after Rebecca – on Spellbound, The Paradine Case, and Under Capricorn – but they never recaptured the magic that is Rebecca. That mysterious unseen woman didn’t just haunt Manderlay, but also haunted the collaboration between two Hollywood icons that struggled to get along.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Tiger Hunter
Now on Blu-ray: ‘The Tiger Hunter’ Glides by with its Charming Heart

Always a hot-button issue, the topic of immigration has recently dominated...

'12 Strong' Press Conference
Chris Hemsworth and the Cast and Crew of ’12 Strong’ Discuss Bringing the Declassified True Story to the Big Screen

In the days after 9/11, as the United States grieved the...

Matinee
Shout! Factory Unleashes Joe Dante’s Cult Classic ‘Matinee’ on Blu-ray

We’re at this point in pop culture where everything seems to...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Vr Change
How Might VR Change the Way We Play

Mega Game Enthusiast, Katie Green, shares how VR might change the...

Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light
A Big Wave is Coming – Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light Structure Deck Releases Friday

A big wave is coming in the form of light, Yu-Gi-Oh...

Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Cards
Ancient Treasures Uncovered – Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Art Cards

Beginning in February, ancient treasures will be revealed and fans will...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of ‘The Prisoner’ with Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, and Titan Comics

The Prisoner has been hailed as television’s first masterpiece; a surreal...

Die Hard Christmas
The Greatest Christmas Movie Becomes The Greatest Christmas Book – A Die Hard Christmas Review

The greatest Christmas movie ever made becomes the greatest Christmas storybook...

8.3/10
‘The 49th Key’ is a Familiar Story Told with Soul

Title: The 49th Key Written by: Erika Lewis Art by: J.K....

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
WWE Slam Crate Starts the Year Off Right

In just two weeks time WWE’s Royal Rumble not only continues...

January’s Loot Crate is Here!

January is a month where resolutions are made, hopes are extended...

Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba
Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 Will Be Great For Your Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 will be great for your collection of Yu-Gi-Oh...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Bellator 192 Full Results including the Welterweight Championship and Heavyweight Grand Prix

January 20, 2018 – Tonight, airing for the first time on...

Bellator 192 Prelims Live on FanboyNation

Bellator: Lima vs. MacDonald – Live Tonight 9/8c, on Paramount Network...

LFA 30 Full Results

Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), one of the most recognizable names in...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Adult Continuity #11 Star Wars Underworld: A XXX parody

ADULT CONTINUITY ISSUE # 11 STAR WARS UNDERWORLD A XXX PARODY...

New Year's Resolutions for Fandom
New Year’s Resolutions for Fandom

It’s the start of another year and while everyone out there...

Samo Says: Star Wars – The Last of My Patience

When I was a child, I loved Star Wars. I had...

Event News Event Reviews
dough bar
The Dough Bar and the Protein Donut

Created by Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez, The Dough Bar Doughnuts are...

truedark
Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...