‘Psycho’ checks in on UK Region free Blu-ray with a very good looking 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed accurately in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The black and white image has a great solidity about it. This is not a ‘boiled up’ grey effort, instead we have the full range of tones from black to white. Sharpness is very good throughout and contrast doesn’t let the side down either. Detail is there to behold and enjoy while the High def picture reveals the different facial textures in close ups. It’s clear that a print was used for the transfer rather than a ‘back to original negatives’ approach as there are some flecks of dirt to catch the eye. There is a fair amount of grain on show here, but it’s perfectly in character for a film of this age and it would have been a shame to smear it away with DNR. Overall, the transfer looks impressive, but I was puzzled by one shot that stood out like a sore thumb that appeared as if it had been shot through a car windscreen due to some marks that I couldn’t explain. I’ve included a grab of it with the images. Answers on a postcard please ....
This is the best that the Hitchcock classic has ever looked.
The audio on ‘Psycho’ comes in two flavours. For the purists, we have the original mono mix carried on a DTS HD MA 2.0 track, while we also get the recently constructed 5.1 surround mix to bring it up to latest technological levels.
I listened to both mixes and found that I enjoyed the original mono mix best. Dialogue is clean and crisp throughout, while Bernard Hermann’s score shrieks nicely where it’s supposed to.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix, which I thought might be a travesty, has in fact been created with some restraint and tries to remain faithful to the balance of the original. I noticed more depth to the music score, added by the bass extension and while things like birds twittering were fed to the surrounds, I wasn’t aware of any attempt to be tricky with objects flying past my head. This was quite a relief as was the fact that dialogue remained locked to the centre channel and had no competition from music or effects from the surrounds.
Both mixes are respectful and provide a choice to suit the taste of different people.
The version of ‘Psycho’ submitted for review was the 50th Anniversary Special Edition Steelbook which although just a single disc, contains the feature and a wheel barrow load of great bonus material. There’s also a very nice 20pp booklet featuring stills and a summary of the film. Extras on the disc include:
- The Making of Psycho (SD, 94 mins)
This very informative documentary from 1997 has already had an airing on DVD but there’s nothing to beat it. We have interviews with Janet Leigh, writer Joseph Stefano and many of Hitch’s collaborators telling the story of the production, the problems and its novel release campaign. It uses footage from many of the other shorts included in the bonus material.
- In The Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy (SD, 26 mins)
A look at the influence Hitchcock has had on Cinema with contributions from Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter and many others. They make reference to Hitchcock’s back catalogue and pull out the scenes that have lodged in their memories from childhood.
- Newsreel Footage: The release of Psycho (SD, 8 mins)
This marvellous short explains at length to Joe Public exactly why he won’t be allowed into a showing of ‘Psycho’ after the movie has started. This should be the case for every movie - with routine castration as the penalty for poor time managers and late comers. That’d soon teach ‘em to tell the time!
- Hitchcock/Truffaut (SD, 15 mins)
This is an audio only interview, played over movie footage and stills, with Hitch being interviewed by director Francois Truffaut. The pace is slowed down by an irritating though necessary interpreter.
- The Shower Scene: With & Without Music (SD, 3 mins)
This is just the kind of feature that media students would use to examine the contribution made by music to the mood of a scene. It’s nothing without Bernard Hermann’s score.
- The Shower Sequence Storyboards (SD, 4 mins)
The Saul Bass storyboards as a slideshow on a graphic background.
- Psycho Sound (HD, 10 mins)
Here we have an interesting look at the work done to remix the soundtrack in 5.1 surround from the mono original by company Audioamix. The separation of the elements and the sound steering are explained by the experts. Comparisons between the original and the newly made surround mix are provided for those who find it hard to spot the difference.
- The Psycho Archives (SD, 8 mins)
A slideshow of production stills on a graphic background.
- Posters & Psycho Ads (SD, 3 mins)
Various movie posters from around the world as well as adverts – shown as a slideshow on a graphic background.
- Lobby Cards (SD, 1 min 30s)
These are the Front Of House Stills that used be displayed outside a cinema in the 1960’s. Interestingly they’re in colour. Shown as a slide show.
- Behind the Scenes Photographs (SD, 8 mins)
Yup, it’s a load of production stills as a slideshow.
- Publicity Shots (SD, 8 mins)
Hey, guess what? Publicity stills as a slideshow.
- Psycho Theatrical Trailer (SD, 7 mins)
This is the classic mini –featurette style trailer where Hitch personally takes you on a guided tour of Bates Motel and tells of all the dire happenings without actually giving too much away. Wait until he whips back the shower curtain. This is a real collector’s gem. Great stuff.
- Psycho Re-Release Trailers (SD, 2 mins)
Several recut trailers using original trailer footage, yet still trying to get people to turn up on time with a ‘version TV did not dare show’. It makes you smile.
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents ‘Lamb To The Slaughter’ (SD, 26 mins)
I remember the series on TV as a kid with Hitch’s intro to each tale. This brilliant episode stars Barbara Bel Geddes (younger folks might remember her as ‘Msellie’ in the ‘Dallas’ TV series. It’s a Roald Dahl story involving a Policeman who announces he wants to leave his pregnant wife. Interesting as Hitch had a fear of the Police. Never upset a woman who has a leg of lamb in the freezer.
- Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello, author of ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’
Mr Rebello talks us through the film explaining and exploring the themes while providing well informed background information about Hitchcock. His delivery is quite lively as he tells us about the actors in each scene and how they felt about shooting it. He investigates the music, the writers and the camerawork in equal depth.
He’s a knowledgeable companion to have with you for the duration.
The Hitchcock classic shocker ‘Psycho’ arrives on UK Region free Blu-ray in a 50th Anniversary edition with a very good looking 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The well rendered black and white image is sharp and detailed with a healthy level of film grain to remind us that it originates from 1960. A good looking transfer.
The audio is provided in a recently constructed DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix which shows respect to the original mono mix, which is also provided on the disc. Thankfully the surround mix has been done with some restraint and in a tasteful manner.
A wheelbarrow load of extras accompany the feature and include an extensive documentary, a commentary by author Stephen Rebello as well as a great episode from the ‘Alfred Hitchcock presents’ TV series.
The movie needs no explanation, with great performances by Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in their most memorable roles. Hitch is the real star of the show with his use of techniques that have been emulated by many film makers. Don’t watch it alone.
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