One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most unique and underrated directorial efforts has received the Criterion treatment, and it’s the kind of Blu-ray release that a film of this quality deserves. Titled Rebecca, the film is a gothic romance with plenty of twists and turns that will undoubtedly satisfy fans of the iconic director.
The lovely Joan Fontaine stars as an unnamed young woman who falls in love with and subsequently marries charming aristocrat Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Shortly after moving into her new husband’s estate, however, the new Mrs. de Winter discovers that the memory of her husband’s deceased ex-wife, Rebecca, is present in nearly every aspect of the home. When it becomes clear that the truth behind Rebecca’s death is being hidden from her, Mrs. de Winter sets out to find out what really happened to the woman.
One of Hitchcock’s great mystery thrillers, the film is far different than much of his filmography. Led by superb performances from both Fontaine and Olivier, Rebecca is an absolute classic that deserves to be mentioned among the best films of its era. It truly is something special.
Despite having been released on home video numerous times, the latest Criterion Blu-ray release is well worth the upgrade for numerous reasons. For starters, the two-disc set is filled with bonus features, and may very well be the most stacked single-film Criterion release to date. When you consider just how much effort the distributor consistently puts into all of their releases, that’s truly saying a lot. It looks and sounds absolutely incredible here, with George Barnes’ wonderful cinematography being treated with the utmost respect.
Supplementing the film itself are a 1990 commentary track with film scholar Leonard J. Leff, who wrote Hitchcock and Selznick, as well as an isolated music and effects track. Other features include a roundtable discussion with film critic Molly Haskell and film scholar Patricia White, which finds the two women discussing the feminist themes of Rebecca, of which there are many. Archival interviews with Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, and Alfred Hitchcock find the artists discussing their work on the film.
The half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary The Making of Rebecca, which features interviews with numerous film historians and Hitchcock experts, provides some fascinating insight into the film’s production. Similarly, Daphne du Maurier: In the Footsteps of Rebecca — a 55-minute documentary on the author of the novel that inspired the film — analyzes the origins of the story.
A brief featurette on the film’s understated special effects — featuring film historian Craig Barron — focuses on the incredible miniatures utilized onscreen. A collection of behind-the-scenes supplements entitled The Search For “I” provides some incredible insight into the casting process of the film’s heroine. Notes from the filmmakers who auditioned the actresses are extremely blunt, and certainly reinforce the belief that Hitchcock was a bit of a prick. Though his perceptions of women are kind of awful, it’s interesting to get into the mind of a man like Hitch.
One of the coolest supplements included in the release, though, is a collection of three radio versions of Rebecca from the Campbell Playhouse in 1938, and Lux Radio Theatre in 1941 and 1950. Given that radio plays are an underappreciated art form in 2017, it’s nice to see the Criterion Collection include them in this release. The film’s theatrical trailer rounds out the Blu-ray.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of the Master of Suspense’s work then this is must-own release. The film itself makes this release worth picking up, but the hours and hours of bonus material only elevates it. In a year filled with great Blu-rays being put out by the Criterion Collection, Rebecca stands above and beyond as the best thus far — and one that will be nearly impossible to top.
Rebecca is now available on Blu-ray through the Criterion Collection.