The Criterion Collection, $39.95
THE USUAL pattern for DVD releases is to push out an extras-packed special edition to any Hollywood title a few months after it leaves theaters. That’s fine for Shrek, less good for, say, Swordfish. The rush job can work both for and against films still fresh in our box-office memory. A very different proposition is to take an acknowledged old classic, Hitchcock’s 1940 gothic love story in this case, and add something new to it.
Criterion is known for gorgeous, painstaking DVD transfers, and this two-disc set is no exception. You’ve got screen tests with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh (the latter lost out to more aggressively innocent Joan Fontaine), not one but three radio adaptations of Daphne du Maurier’s best seller (the first with Orson Welles), production memos, publicity stills, even some snippets of the ’41 Oscars (where Rebecca won for best picture and cinematography).
In truth, a lot of the material would’ve worked better as a companion book, but DVD’s cheaper—particularly when the stuff was first digitized for the 1990 LaserDisc edition. Other things demand to be heard, like Hitchcock’s own voice drawling: “The story itself belongs to the end of the 19th century. It has stood up quite well over the years. I don’t know why.”
One reason, aside from perfectionist producer David O. Selznick’s heavy hand, is Rebecca‘s studied atavism. It’s a ghost story haunted by the past—and not the last Hitchcock would make in his nascent American career.
TAKING LONGER than usual to reach DVD, in a sense, is The Matrix Revisited (due Nov. 20), which is basically all backstage hype and previews for the forthcoming two installments of that series. Apocalypse Now Redux is worth owning, particularly with those restored scenes of Brando and company. Tim Burton had better say something pretty insightful on his commentary to Planet of the Apes to make that a viable gift idea. God knows why Dirty Harry and its four sequels are bundled together, while Disney is churning out several straight-to-video Christmas kiddie movies that do include some vintage ‘toon characters.