The biggest Blu-ray release of the week is also one of the year's most eagerly anticipated Blu-rays: Universal's fifteen-film Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection. Barring two reissues in the set - Warner Bros' North by Northwest disc and Universal's HD printing of Psycho - The Masterpiece Collection offers a host of new-to-Blu-ray titles from the Master of Suspense, including newly restored versions of Rear Window, Vertigo, and The Birds. For serious film aficionados, this package is of great historical and cinematic import; taken together, the films constitute Hitchcock's entire body of work for Universal Studios (plus the lone Warner outlier that is North by Northwest).
Almost as auspicious is another suspense classic, Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, which receives an HD upgrade from the Criterion Collection. The horror favorite finds Polanski operating in as insidious and manipulative a thriller mode as the best of Hitchcock; it's a terrifyingly patient story about a young couple (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) whose move into a desirable New York City apartment building slowly becomes a journey into far more disturbing terrain. Polanski's direction is razor-sharp - his images are so precise that even the framing of certain shots puts us on edge - and he coaxes a brilliant star performance from Farrow as Rosemary, a shy, diffident woman suddenly thrust into a situation she never thought possible. Criterion is streeting this one just in time for Halloween - it's just as unnerving today as it was in 1968.
In his Blu-ray review, Svet Atanasov reserves the highest praise for the feature, writing that "Roman Polanski's adaptation of Ira Levin's novel is often described as a great horror film and for a good reason – the atmosphere in it is damn near perfect. For a long period of time everything in the film seems normal, but just like Rosemary the viewer feels that something is off...There are clues about what is underway all over the film, but most of them are so bizarre that they can't be taken seriously. Polanski knows it and plays with the viewer's expectations. Right until the finale, the viewer isn't entirely sure what type of film Rosemary's Baby is...A few very small changes at the end would have made it a pretty good thriller, or an unusually effective black comedy, or [a] terrific drama."
Shifting from thrills to straight drama, we come to Olive Films' Long Day's Journey Into Night Blu-ray edition. An adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize-winning stage masterwork, Long Day's Journey Into Night is the definition of an "actor's film"; it never transcends its theatrical origins, focusing instead on the charged - and ultimately tragic - interactions of the Tyrone family. However, the genius of the picture is that this stagebound quality never detracts from the power of the material - O'Neill's text is so potent, and the performances from Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, and Dean Stockwell are so raw, that Long Day's Journey Into Night retains the blistering edge of the theatrical production. Furthermore, director Sidney Lumet might not open the play up, but his cinematic touch proves essential to the overall tenor of the film. He brings the camera closer and closer to the Tyrones, until by the end, we feel trapped in the landscape of their bodies.
Jeffrey Kauffman highlights this quality, noting that "this is in some way the most claustrophobic piece in Lumet's impressive oeuvre. We are so close to these characters we can almost see beneath their ravaged skins. In fact it's that very lack of distance, something which I mentioned makes seeing O'Neill more troubling than merely reading him, that gives this film its inherent and undeniable power. This version of Long Day's Journey Into Night may well be too intense, too personal and too hard to endure, but it is ultimately completely and inescapably unforgettable."
Finally, the Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis comedy The Campaign streets this Tuesday. Despite the hand that Anchorman/Talladega Nights/Step Brothers/The Other Guys mastermind Adam McKay played in the story development, The Campaign rarely displays the same kind of inspired weirdness as those aforementioned features: even within the confines of an R-rating, it's too safe, too reliant on profanity for laughs, and way too preachy in the late-goings (it practically turns into Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with a potty mouth). Still, Ferrell and Galifianakis are too talented to not score some laughs, and they alone merit a viewing. The Campaign doesn't challenge them - or us - but as comedies go, you could do worse.
Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review echoes many of those same notes, how "The Campaign won't get my vote for comedy of the year, that's for sure. But it does have an enviable lineup of laughs, a pair of memorable turns from Ferrell and Galifianakis, and even a few near-classic moments, which is more than I can say for most...What The Campaign really needed was a smarter script and sharper satire. Ah well. It's funny, I'll give it that. If you're growing weary of the constant partisan bickering and blathering littering the airwaves of late or if you're looking to hibernate until mid-November, Ferrell and Galifianakis will help make the next two weeks fly by that much faster."
I'll get the Hitchcock Collection and Rosemary's Baby if I ever find them cheap enough either in store or on eBay.
Possibly Copper: Season One, if I like it. I've got the entire season still on my DVR but haven't got around to watching it yet.
I might eventually get the Fleischer's Superman Collection if I ever find it for under $5
I'd love to have the Hitch collection this week, but it is way too expensive in the U.S. Had to go with the British version that omits North by Northwest (which I already have) for $90 less. Sadly, that means waiting a few more weeks, though.