With Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film, Rebecca he delivered one of his most unique and mesmerizing films. It also won Best Picture at the Oscars that year. Sadly, Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine were all robbed that year. In fact of its eleven nominations it only secured two of them, Cinematography being the other.
Fontaine plays a young, shy woman working for a rich, chatty woman in Monte Carlo. There she meets the recently widowed Maxim de Winter and despite coming from completely different backgrounds, the two fall in love and Maxim asks for her hand in marriage, making here the new Mrs. de Winter.
The honeymoon is quickly over as they couple arrives at Maxim’s estate, Manderlay. The mistress of the house, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), is a cold, distant woman who takes a very obvious and instant dislike to the new Mrs. de Winter. The young woman is painfully out of place and out of sorts in the massive estate. She is never sure what to do, what to say or where to stand.
And all the time the otherworldly shadow of the original Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, is constantly hanging over her. From Danvers constantly mentioning her to the “R” that appears on all the stationary and sheets, Mrs. de Winter cannot escape Rebecca. And as she begins to find out more about her mysterious drowning, dark facts begin to reveal themselves that will change her forever.
This is one of Hitchcock’s finest films. Olivier and Fontaine have great chemistry and both fantastic in the film. Anderson is all extremely memorable as the creepy Danvers. With out any spies or big external set pieces, Rebecca is unlike almost everything else Hitchcock made. Sure it has a mystery with some pretty impressive twists at the end (especially for the time), but this film, more than his others, really focuses on the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. de Winter as well as the fragile mental state of the latter.
If you haven’t seen Rebecca you’re really doing yourself a disservice. It is a wonderfully dark mysterious tale filled with sorrow and amazing performances. Up to this point Hitchcock had made a few great films, but this was his first amazing film.
This film is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and DTS-HD Mater Audio. The film looks amazing here! It really has never looked better. The sound is great to. The film was for best Cinematography and all of it’s award winning glory is here for your eyes to soak up.
Commentary: with film critic Richard Schickel. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Film critic and historian commentaries are dull but informative and that goes for this one as well. Isolated Music and Effects Track. The Making Of…: (28 min.) Apparently David Selznick and Hitchcock didn’t get along it all and this documentary spills all the juicy details. Very entertaining. The Gothic World of Daphne Du Maurier: (19 min.) An interesting look at the author of the book Rebecca and all things surrounding that. This also gives an interesting comparison of the major plot points of Rebecca and Jane Eyre. Screen Tests: (9 min.) A lot of great actresses auditioned for this film, here are a couple of them: Margaret Sullavan and Vivien Leigh with Olivier. Radio Plays (178 min.) You get three of these. 1938 starring Orson Welles, 1941 presented by Cecil B. DeMille and 1950 with Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. They are each about an hour long and fun if you have the time for them. Hitchcock Audio Interviews (13 min.) You get two of these: one with Peter Bogdonavich and Francois Truffaut. These are both very interesting. Original Theatrical Trailer: They really don’t make trailers like they used to.
Rebecca is one of Hitchcock’s finest films. That seems to get said about a lot of his films and that’s cause it’s generally true, but this one truly is among the best. Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier are both in top form here and Judith Anderson it wonderfully terrifying.
20th Century Fox presents Rebecca. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison. Adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan. Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson and Gladys Cooper. Running time: 131 min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on Blu-ray: January 24, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.