Anchor Bay // 1940 // 130 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Margo Reasner (Retired) // September 15th, 1999
Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
Another Best Picture Oscar winner comes to DVD. As expected, the film is top-notch all the way around, but don't expect anything more than that from the DVD presentation.
Rebecca won two well deserved Oscars in 1941: one for Best Picture and the other for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White). It was also nominated for nine more, including Sir Laurence Olivier for Best Actor, Joan Fontaine for Best Actress, Alfred Hitchcock for Best Director, and Judith Anderson for Best Supporting Actress. Sir Laurence Olivier (Sleuth, Marathon Man, A Little Romance) plays "Maxim" de Winter, a recently widowed wealthy older man described as having been madly in love with his wife before her tragic boating accident. Joan Fontaine (Suspicion, The Emperor Waltz, This Above All) plays a young paid lady companion who far too quickly becomes The Second Mrs. de Winter. The two of them first meet in Monte Carlo, have a whirlwind romance for a couple of days, and are then forced into deciding whether or not to marry because of an unexpected, hasty departure of Fontaine's employer.
After a quick Justice of the Peace marriage and a brief romantic honeymoon, the two of them arrive at famous Manderley (Maxim's family estate) and the second Mrs. de Winter is confronted by the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca. On every level she compares herself to her husband's most beautiful and poised first wife. Judith Anderson (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers) plays Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper who took care of Rebecca and later Maxim after her death. George Sanders (All About Eve, voice of "Shere Khan" in The Jungle Book) plays Jack Favell, who was Rebecca's favorite cousin. As these characters interact, the truth about the past unfolds in a suspenseful and chilling manner. Movies just didn't get much better than this.
This was Alfred Hitchcock's first American made film (although it is set in Britain), and he received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director (out of a total of six) and his only win for Best Picture. He does have a cameo (as the man outside the phone booth) at the point where Jack Favell has finished making his phone call near the end of the movie. The story itself is based upon the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. This is one film that you owe it to yourself to see if you feel that you are a film buff.
A great film like this deserves the royal treatment when put out on DVD, and unfortunately this one didn't get it. The video is presented in full frame and the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0. That's the good news. The bad news is that this film was just transferred from a good older copy. There wasn't any restoration or remastering beforehand. Therefore, you can see scratches and reel change dots throughout if you are looking for them, and the image is pretty soft. This isn't touted as a remastered edition, but it would have been just so much better if they had taken the time to do it. The other negative for this DVD, however, is its complete lack of extras. The two menu options are "Chapter Selection" and "Start." It would have been a nice touch to give some history on the film, its awards, and perhaps even cast biographies and filmographies so that fans could be better informed. There's just so much here that is important to the history of the film-making industry that to research it and share it would have been a great opportunity to further interest people in classic films.
Rebecca is a top-notch film and you owe it to yourself to at least rent it. If you enjoy Hitchcock or classic films then this is a must have. The acting and story are generally strong enough to keep your attention from noticing the flaws of the transfer.
The film itself is totally acquitted. However Anchor Bay is hereby sentenced to go back and get it right by remastering this one and they are hereby directed to get us some interesting tidbits of information about its production.
Review content copyright © 1999 Margo Reasner; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Release Year: 1940
MPAA Rating: Not Rated