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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • New piece on the visual effects in the film with effects expert Craig Barron
  • Hollywood Propaganda and World War II, a new interview with writer Mark Harris
  • Interview with director Alfred Hitchcock from a 1972 episode of The Dick Cavett Show
  • Radio adaptation of the film from 1946, starring Joseph Cotten
  • Have You Heard? The Story of Wartime Rumors, a 1942 Life magazine "photo-drama" by Hitchcock
  • Trailer

Foreign Correspondent

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders
1940 | 120 Minutes | Licensor: Westchester Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #696
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: February 18, 2014
Review Date: February 16, 2014

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SYNOPSIS

In 1940, Alfred Hitchcock made his official transition from the British film industry to Hollywood. And it was quite a year: his first two American movies, Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent, were both nominated for the best picture Oscar. Though Rebecca prevailed, Foreign Correspondent is the more quintessential Hitch film. A full-throttle espionage thriller, starring Joel McCrea as a green Yank reporter sent to Europe to get the scoop on the imminent war, it's wall-to-wall witty repartee, head-spinning plot twists, and brilliantly mounted suspense set pieces, including an ocean plane crash climax with astonishing special effects. Foreign Correspondent deserves to be mentioned alongside The 39 Steps and North by Northwest as one of the master's greatest adventures.

Forum members rate this film 9.5/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection gives Alfred Hitchcockís Foreign Correspondent an upgrade with a new dual-format edition, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The new 2K high-definition digital transfer was created by Criterion from the original camera negative and is presented in 1080p/24hz on the dual-layer Blu-ray disc, while the standard definition version is presented on the first dual-layer DVD. The image has not been window boxed.

I vaguely recall the original Warner DVD but canít make any direct comparison since I donít own it. Still, in the case of the DVDís presentationóand most certainly the Blu-rayísóthereís no way Warnerís could have come even close. In either case the presentation comes off fairly filmic with a nice dose of grain that even the DVD delivers fairly well. On the Blu-ray, detail and depth is excellent, an image that remains consistently sharp (other than some soft moments where the softness appears to be inherent to the source,) and black levels and contrast look spot on with clean, natural shifts in tone and great shadow delineation. The high-def transfer is very clean with no distinguishable artifacts to mar the image. Even the DVDís standard-definition presentation isnít heavily marred by artifacts, with only the limitations of the format being the only hindrance: some mild noise, tonal shifts arenít as impressive, and finer details arenít as crisp.

The print is very clean with only a few minor blemishes remaining, like a spec of debris and a stray hair here and there. Past these very minor issues itís a hell of a looking presentation.

9/10

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AUDIO

The filmís mono audio is presented in lossless 1.0 linear PCM on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital 1.0 on the DVD. In both cases the audio is actually surprisingly good considering the age of the film. Itís sharp and clear, with easily discernable dialogue and fairly crisp music (though the music can get a bit edgy in places.) Otherwise it lacks any noticeable damage and has some unexpected fidelity to it.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion delivers a number of special features (available on both the Blu-ray and the second dual-layer DVD in the set,) giving a bit of special attention to the wartime propaganda that was appearing in films at the time. Starting the features off is an interview with writer Mark Harris, entitled Hollywood Propaganda and World War II. For 25-minutes Harris gives a general overview of the American political spectrum of the time, with a lot of politicians and most citizens wanting to stay out of the war. When Pearl Harbor happened it opened up a door to push an agenda to go to war and the government pushed Hollywood to make propaganda films (or ďmoraleĒ films, as they were called during the day,) though technically never made it law for them to do so. I found this to be a rather fascinating piece as Harris goes over a number of films from the era that can be considered propaganda and explains the affects they had. Harris then talks about Hitchcock, who left England when they were just starting to make their own propaganda films, and how he came to add in political elements to Foreign Correspondent, which is not just limited to the rather obvious ending. Itís a rather fascinating historical segment.

Criterion next goes to, yet again, Craig Barron, their go-to effects guy, to cover the visual effects in Foreign Correspondent. The 19-minute segment has Barron, yet again, give a general overview of effects work at the time and even explains (with examples) how some of the effects in this film were pulled off. In an interview on this disc Hitchcock explains how one of the final effects in the film, involving a flooding cockpit, was pulled off. Here, Barron actually gives a demonstration, giving a great visual aid as to how this rather elaborate and impressive effect was pulled off. Thereís also some other great tidbits about that finale (including a rather clever use of material for the plane cabin ceiling.) I always find this stuff fascinating, and yet again Barron offers a fascinating examination of the effects in the film.

Itís an impressive set so far, but easily the best feature on here is the next one: Dick Cavett Interviews Alfred Hitchcock, from 1972. This funny and incredibly charming interview has the director talk about his early work and explaining how he pulled off a number of effects and shots in his films. He talks about the violence in his films, and how he has to try to keep up with the way violence is evolving in the movies. He also recalls some anecdotes about working with certain actors and talks about some of his favourite moments. Itís a great insightful interview, but itís also incredibly funny thanks to Hitchcockís dry wit and how both host and interview subject play off of each other. I was also especially amused by Hitchcockís reactions to some of the commercials that were shown during breaks (I actually wish they were kept here.) Itís a fantastic interview and one that should be viewed. The interview runs 62-minutes.

The disc then closes with a few other supplements. Thereís a 1946 radio adaptation from the Academy Award Theater, featuring Joseph Cotten recalling his adventure. As always itís an interesting inclusion but this particular adaptation isnít terribly good, with the whole production more or less being told as an anecdote. It runs 25-minutes.

Following that is a small gallery featuring a special article Hitchcock did for Life Magazine called ĒHave You Heard?Ē, which was a short story told through photographs explaining why no one should start rumours about the military (because you never know who may be listening.) The disc then closes with the filmís theatrical trailer. James Naremore then provides an excellent essay on the film and its production in the included booklet.

Doesnít look like a lot but I found it a rather solid set of supplements, all of it worth going through.

8/10

CLOSING

A great release from Criterion, it features a solid transfer and some fascinating supplements. It comes with a high recommendation.


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