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VINE VOICEon 8 October 2011
The Early Alfred Hitchcock collection brings together nine films from 1928 to 1932, four silent and five "talkies". The first thing to acknowledge is that it's by no means a definitive look at the early part of his career (his finest silent hour The Lodger is missing, to name but one) but it does give good quality versions of some of his "harder to find" movies on DVD.

Given a slight overlap in release dates (his final silent movie was released after his first talkie) I'll tackle the silent movies first, then the talkies.

The Ring (1928) has a unique place in the Hitchcock cannon being his one and only original screenplay. A melodrama set in the world of carnival boxing, it's not what you would expect from a Hitch film but a flourish of his trademark creative touches throughout the film somewhat overcome the predictable nature of the story. Indeed from early on you will realise that the protagonists will have to meet in the boxing ring for the hand of the fair lady.

Champagne (1928) features a highly suitable title considering that it's a frothy, insubstantial concoction; it's certainly more Tesco Value than Moet that's for sure. It holds interest for the Hitchcock fan given some of the experimental touches on show (the shots through a raised Champagne glass were very clever for their time) and there's a nice twist in the tale but it's far from Hitch's greatest silent moment.

The Farmer's Wife (1929) is an example of Hitch adapting a successful stage play but again, much like The Ring it's an obvious story from the beginning as a widowed farmer decides to try and marry again...all the while failing to see the girl who is truly suited to him. Worth seeing for the tea party (a rare chance to see Hitch attempting slapstick - although not as good as some scenes from Waltzes from Vienna) and Gordon Harker's turn as a handyman, it's nevertheless a sleight piece.

The silent's are rounded off by The Manxman (1930), a story that had already been a novel, a stage play and a film previously. Yet another love-triangle, this time set in an Isle Of Man fishing community and it has to be said that the lack of words don't in any way prevent us from feeling what the characters do; the performances of Carl Brisson and Anny Ondra are great and the scenery is wonderful enough to make you forget what a load of old tosh the storyline could be said to be.

Anny Ondra turns up in 1929's Blackmail, although her thick accent put paid to her film stardom in England before too long (she had to be dubbed for this), in what was Britain's first talkie. As it started off as a silent movie there are portions of the movie that don't really work but it's a clear sign of Hitch's brilliance that the film works in both mediums (no silent version on this set, mind you). It's perhaps best seen as an early sign of Hitch's darker side and proof of Hitch's long held belief that "sound" in movies should never just be about people talking.

Murder! (1930) might well be the most outright entertaining movie in the set as Herbert Marshall becomes convinced of a convicted girl's innocence of murder and seeks to clear her of all charges. It's not a great movie in any historical sense (and the plot's reasoning for the real killer's motives is certainly not one for this era) but it is great fun. For every director's trick that works (this is the first time in a movie that a person's thoughts are voiced on the soundtrack of the film) there is one that doesn't (witness the "spongy" floor in the office scene) but if you can sit and watch black and white films from this era you are sure to enjoy this one.

The Skin Game (1931) returns to melodrama and not entirely successfully. Another adaptation of a stage play, it wasn't a project that Hitch wanted to do. Those with a great interest in Hitch's craft will see some nice touches but the long stretches of dialogue-heavy scenes didn't do anything for me.

Rich and Strange (1932) was allegedly inspired by Hitch's own honeymoon experiences with beloved wife Alma and whilst it isn't quite the equivalent of watching your next door neighbours holiday video late one Saturday night the moments of genuine hilarity are a little too sparse to make this worth a true recommendation.

The set finishes with Number Seventeen (1932) which is another film that Hitch had little real interest in...so he spends the entire movie sending the whole thing up. And quite brilliantly too. It's a "nothing" film in most senses but again is a very entertaining one. Ann Casson and Anne Grey put in great performances and the climactic chase scene has to be seen to be believed (and don't worry - you won't believe it). The hour or so running time simply flies by.

These nine films don't showcase the "best" of Hitchcock by any means and they are certainly not the place to start for the uninitiated. For those who have seen his more famous works and wish to explore his early career though, there is much to appreciate here. And in amongst the early looks as the themes, motifs and visual tricks that Hitch would employ throughout his career you'll also find a number of entertaining movies in their own right. And for the current price of less than £[], this is a steal.
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on 22 May 2007
This is a great set, an absolute must for anyone interested in the film career of Alfred Hitchcock, with some of his earlier British films (including 4 silent movies), lovingly restored and with some wonderful extras, most notably an hour long documentary on early Hitchcock. It's amazing how great these movies look on this new masters (infinitely better than all previous releases, that can now be easily dismissed). I just hope that Studio Canal and Optimun Classic get round to release soon the rest of the British films, particularly The Lodger, the first true Hitchcock work only available so far in unwatchable transfers. Some of these films may not be great works of art, up to the standard set by the master in his later opus, but in all of them can be found moments and ideas which speak loud of a real genius in working process. Don't miss it!
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on 16 April 2007
Buying this set was a treat as most of them were earlier available in terrible prints.Some of films in the set are important works like blackmail and rich and Strange. However it is a pity they have not included the silent version of Blackmail like was done in the german version. The other important omissions are The finest Hitch silent The Lodger. I would also have liked to see Young and Inocent if for nothing else but the glorious camera movement that ends in a close up of the villians eyes. i hope there is a vol 2 that puts these films out
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on 7 July 2010
There's a great selection of titles here, though it would be much better to have all of Hitchcock's silent films in a single box. You can get The Pleasure Garden, the Lodger and Downhill in the Network set, but no one currently offers Easy Virtue. What makes no sense, however, is only including the sound version of Blackmail in this box set. This is a typical short cut from this label. Blackmail is among the finest films that Hitchcock made in the 1920s, though given that the sound version was Britain's first sound film, it feels very stilted in comparison to the silent. The quality of the transfers here is just about OK, though not a patch on the remastering of British silents such as A Cottage on Dartmoor or Piccadilly. The real nightmare here however are the terrible soundtracks that virtually destroy the experience of watching some of the films. Again, it's like no effort has been made by Optimum Home Entertainment to invest in a soundtrack that is sympathetic to the film. Most of the sound films look and sound OK.
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on 7 December 2010
Lets get straight to the point here, Alfred Hitchcock is the greatest director of all time. This box set is partically interesting as it showcases his early movies from the late 1920's and early 30's.
You get 9 films here. 5 great ones 1 bizarre and 3 stinkers. Yep even Hitch had his bad moments. Having said that he was not in control of what he could put out. The 3 stinkers are not even in the Hitch genre. The Skin Game, The Manxman and Champagne. As bad as these are, its still worthing skimming through to see some neat Hitch details. The bizarre movie is RICH and Strange. Basically about a couple that would not look out of a place in the 1990's. It almost works, and is worth a view. But what you really get for your money are the following; Blackmail, I cannot describe in short words how great this film is. It has everything that Hitch thrilled us with in the 50's. It is a masterpiece. Murder is another great movie, the first 10 mins of the movie will blow any would be director of his seat. You cannot believe how old this movie is, with the quality of directing on show. The Farmers Wife actually is a romance really, but works well given the strong characters. The Ring is another genuine classic. About a boxer. Number 17 is another good movie. Watching it you are reminded what Hitch will give his older audeince in years to come. There are some great extras here too. Well worth the price but more important a must for the Hitch lover. One moan is that his first movie The Pleasure Garden is not here, and neither is The Lodger, both of these could have replaced the duds on here. Having said that Its obviously due to copyright ownership than anything else. Essential Purchase.
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Alfred Hitchcock is best known for the films he made in America after he moved there in 1939. He was prolific in the US and prolifically excellent. He made roughly the same number of films in England pre emigrating in 1939. Many of these are reasonably well known. Perhaps the most critically acclaimed of these is 'The Lady Vanishes' which was the last but one film he made in England - his very last one being the commercially successful 'Jamaica Inn'. But he made many other reasonable films in the twenties and thirties and was the first to embrace the new 'talky' facilities at Elstree Studios in 1929. It is these fair to middling films that are included here. 'Jamaica Inn' and 'The Lady Vanishes' are not included.

This collection is a good selection of the kinds of films that developed Hitchcock's reputation as the master-builder of the British film industry. These films, and Hitchcock the man, gave the domestic industry confidence in its own abilities to make great films. In consequence, the thirties were a particularly great era for the industry with gem after gem being turned out by Elstree, Ealing, Welwyn and Merton Park Studio, amongst others.

Hitchcock's fingerprints, the hallmarks of his technique that were to become so apparent during his wildly successful Hollywood years in the forties, fifties and sixties, are all over these films. Hitchcock left his DNA on every scene in this collection: the camera following someone's gaze, the intense close-ups, unconventional edits, dramatic lensing, heavy sexual undercurrents, obsession with evil and obsession with obsession. 4 stars.
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on 19 January 2015
The five stars are for the box set which includes 4 silents and 5 talkies. Individually I rate thus: The Ring 3, The Farmer's Wife 3, Champagne 3, The Manxman 3, Blackmail 5, Murder! 4, The Skin Game 3, Rich and Strange 3, Number Seventeen 4. All are a must for Hitchcock fans.
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on 8 May 2014
I've taken a quick peek at all of these and they all look better than the older versions I had from Public Domain, by far! I have only watched "Champaign" all the way through though, as I had not seen that one before. These are fun and a real peek behind the curtain on Hitche's early career. Very enjoyable and excellent restorations make it even more so. If you are a Hitch fan and like silents and early talkies (and even if you are new to them) you will enjoy these.
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on 4 April 2015
Good set, with terrific looking prints, only drawback is that the set is a little short on extras. Some audio commentaries would have been useful (the intros to the films are all in French--with subs) eg one of the old laserdiscs of Blackmail had a good audio commentary. Still, a nice collection of good quality films.
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on 1 January 2015
Early Hitchcock effort. This is a drama based on a farmer looking for the perfect wife. After many mishaps he finally finds the love of his life. Some nice Hitchcock moments and a fair bit of comedy, which helps. But the movie is overlong at 97 mins. Decent effort, but this film will only be pleasureable for Hitchcock fans and completeists.
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