MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Although I am a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, I’m not an exhaustive fan of his work. That is to say that I haven’t even seen close to all of his films. I’ve seen the big ones, sure, like “Psycho,” “Rear Window,” “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest” and the other major releases he had from the 50s and beyond. But his earlier work, including a lot of the films he made in the 40s, I’ve missed.
One of his most famous films that has eluded me over the years is 1940’s “Rebecca.” Based on Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic thriller, the movie follows a young woman (Joan Fontaine) who falls in love with an marries the wealthy widower Mr. de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Upon returning to the family estate with him, she faces shunning by some of the staff, and the question as to the death of the first Mrs. de Winter start to worry the new one.
“Rebecca” is a clever mix of fancy drama and suspense. On one hand, we see a lot of romance and fantasy through the eyes of the new Mrs. de Winter. But under that beauty and glamour, we see a much darker side. Not just in the heavy, black costume of the spiteful housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, but also in the emotions of the piece. Mr. de Winter has a dark, angry side that rears its head. Similarly, the house in which they live might be a mansion, but it has all the eerie atmosphere of Dracula’s castle.
“Rebecca” is interesting to me because it’s a love story that potentially goes horribly wrong. There’s definitely a mystery here, and the explanation is not overly predictable.
The film gets quite talky at times, which is a remnant of the era in which it was made, but the strong acting from Fontaine and Olivier balance the piece quite well. I’m not terribly well-versed in Gothic literature or films based on such, but this movie has a certain feel to it that pre-dates that more popular Hitchcock material.
This new Blu-ray comes with a commentary track by film critic Richard Schickel. There’s also an isolated music and effects track for the die-hard cinemaphiles out there. Featurettes include “The Making of Rebecca” and “The Gothic World of Daphne Du Maurier.” Additional bonus content includes screen tests, radio plays of the same story, audio interviews with Hitchcock and the original theatrical trailer.