Five early Hitchcock classics make their U.S. Blu debut courtesy of Kino Classics
In 2012, the British Film Institute released their restorations of the “Hitchcock 9” — the surviving silent films out of ten made by the British auteur between 1925 and 1929 before he made the transition to sound films for the rest of his storied career. In a time where over 80% of silent films are considered lost (according to the Deutsche Kinemathek), the fact that only one of Hitchcock’s silent films has been lost is remarkable. With these restorations of Hitchcock’s early work, audiences are offered a glimpse into both a master director coming into his own as well as a unique section of British cinema history in the midst of transitioning from silent to sound film.
For the first time on U.S. Blu-ray, Kino Classics has made four of the Hitchcock 9 restorations available to American audiences in Hitchcock: The British International Pictures Collection. Presented here are:
The Ring (1927)
Hitchcock’s first film with British International Pictures, The Ring is a melodrama focusing on a love triangle between two competing boxers and the woman whose attention they vie for.
The Farmer’s Wife (1928)
An early romantic comedy, The Farmer’s Wife follows the travails of aging widower Sweetland, who’s encouraged to remarry after his daughter finds a husband of her own. With the help of his housekeeper, Sweetland desperately tries to find a match out of the village women — a task that’s easier said than done.
Caught between her boyish beau and her disapproving father, a spoiled heiress struggles to make her way in the world after losing her family fortune in a falling stock market.
The Manxman (1929)
A torrid love triangle between two childhood friends who are both in love with the daughter of the local pub owner — a story full of classic melodramatic tropes including mistaken death, confused paternity, and tragic twists of fate.
Also included is Hitchcock’s The Skin Game (1931), a remake of a silent film from 1921 which focuses on two affluent families feuding over what remains of a tiny countryside village. While technically not part of the Hitchcock 9, The Skin Game provides some interesting historical context for the other four films as one of Hitchcock’s first sound films during this early period.
Kino Classics presents each of these included films in a 1.33:1 1080/24p master with 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. English SDH subtitles are included on The Skin Game. The silent films in this collection may show their age with occasional instances of film grain and archival print scratches; these BFI/StudioCanal-sourced restorations offer up a surprising amount of clarity and detail. The opening shots of The Farmer’s Wife in particular manage to preserve detail in thatched roofs and leaves on trees, an impressive feat considering these films are less a decade away from their centennial. The Skin Game, sadly, has the roughest transfer of the bunch — the print is quite jittery and unstabilized, especially in the film’s opening credits and dissolves, an effect that I never fully got used to over the film’s runtime. It’s still a watchable transfer, though, but certainly a Hitchcock that deserved a better restoration if better-condition elements were still extant.
Each of the silent films in this collection — The Ring, The Farmer’s Wife, Champagne, and The Manxman — are presented with new scores created for this release. Each score adequately captures the spirit of their film, though I do prefer the more period-appropriate piano-based scores on The Ring as opposed to the ones that incorporate some slightly distracting synths like The Farmer’s Wife.
Scores are attributed to the following:
- The Ring — Meg Morley
- The Farmer’s Wife — Jon Mirsalis
- Champagne — Ben Model
- The Manxman — Andrew Earle Simpson
- Audio Commentary on The Ring by Critic Nick Pinkerton
- Audio Commentaries on Champagne and The Manxman by Historian Farran Smith Nehme
- Archival Audio Interview of Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut discussing The Ring and The Farmer’s Wife (Disc 1) as well as Champagne, The Manxman, and The Skin Game (Disc 2).
While the titles included may vary in quality both in terms of story and presentation, each of these early Hitchcock films are both entertaining and illuminating for fans of the director’s work.
Hitchcock: The British International Pictures Collection was released by Kino Classics on December 10, 2019.