Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier

Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood & Joan Harrison

Photography by George Barnes

Music: Franz Waxman

Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler

Produced by David O. Selznick

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock




Joan Fontaine

Laurence Olivier

Judith Anderson

George Saunders

Nigel Bruce

Gladys Cooper

Reginald Denny

Florence Bates

C. Aubrey Smith



Theatrical: Selznick International

Video: MGM



Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 48.5 GB

Feature Size: 41 GB

Bit Rate: High (35~40 Mbps)

Runtime: 130 minutes

Chapters: 28



English DTS HD-MA 2.0

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)


Subtitles: Optional English SDH



• Commentary with critic Richard Schickel
• Isolated music and effects track
• Screen and costume tests: Margaret Sullavan, Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine (9:05)
• The Making of Rebecca featurette (28:05)
• The Gothic World of Daphne du Maurier (19:00)

• 3 One- hour Radio Plays
• Hitchcock on Rebecca in conversations with filmmaker Francois Truffaut (9:15) and Peter Bogdanovich (4:20)
• Theatrical Trailer



Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 1

Street Date: January 24, 2012


In one fell swoop on January 24 MGM has made what feels like a 100% increase in the catalogue of classic films for home high definition theatre: Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), The Apartment (1960), Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) - and all but one are in B&W.  Two of these are top drawer films from Alfred Hitchcock, two are the best of the best from Woody Allen, and one is a popular Oscar-winning Billy Wilder film.


The Movie: 10

I have always loved Rebecca.  The Academy felt similarly and granted Hitchcock the dubious honor of watching his producer, David O. Selznick, collect the Oscar for Best Film – the only Oscar Hitch would ever come close to winning. I like most everything about the movie – except, perhaps, Olivier most of the time, and that too, too hopelessly in love expression Fontaine has on her face as she falls in love with him driving through the Monte Carlo countryside (though for some mysterious reason she looks less daffy in HD).


I found a new appreciation for the movie after I read the book many years later, and learned to appreciate the challenges of the process.  Except for the aforementioned bit of silliness, I feel Fontaine is perfect for the role – or the role she, Selznick and Hitchcock have created for the second Mrs de Winter.  She is naïve, vulnerable, girlish, uncommonly pretty, with just enough grit hidden under her nail biting anxieties to command our support.


There’s Judith Anderson as the only person who actually loved Rebecca – to her eternal damnation and our eternal delight. Her Mrs Danvers is one of the creepiest characters ever to grace the screen.  And Franz Waxman’s music: nostalgic, ominous, romantic, and most of all: gothic.  Waxman provided Hitchcock with four scores: for Rebecca, Suspicion, The Paradine Case and Rear Window.  The IMDB lists 173 composing credits for him, but only one other stands out: the fiercesome Sunset Blvd. Waxman took home Oscars for Sunset Blvd and A Place in the Sun, but Rebecca lost to – are you sitting down for this? Pinocchio. Words kind of fail here.



Rebecca is the story about a woman we never see, except in a painting – she’s been dead for a couple of years before the movie even gets started.  It’s about the effect she had on the lives of everyone she touched – most importantly the woman who would replace her at Manderley, the estate where Rebecca held court, and not always with her husband.  That would be Olivier, who, when we first meet him, Fontaine, in her caring innocence, takes for an imminent suicide.  Maxim de Winter would seem to be vacationing at Monte Carlo, but is really consumed with thoughts of his dead wife.  Fontaine is just the tonic he needs.


Fontaine (whose character has no name other than “Mrs. De Winter” – often preceded by a derogatory “the second”) is the most naïve of women. In some ways she is hardly a woman at all. When we meet her she is in the employ of a dowager (in a wonderfully revolting performance by Florence Bates) so friendless herself she has to employ one: Fontaine.  Through happenstance and accident, Olivier courts Fontaine simply because she is so completely different from Rebecca, a fact that doesn’t seem to gel in her mind until many reels into the film.



Fontaine is the furthest thing anyone, except Maxim in his careless way, can see as the lady of Manderley – least of all Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper and once lady’s maid to Rebecca.  She looks Fontaine up and down and sees her not merely wanting, but like a mouse her cat would want to toy with.  And toy she does.  The scene where Danvers introduces her to Rebecca’s boudoir is so chillingly, disturbingly erotic that you will never be able to see lace quite the same way again.  Or a hairbrush.


Eventually, Rebecca, the movie, settles into more familiar territory – a mystery - a murder mystery, in fact.  Once there, the movie becomes more predictable, and it is a challenge for Hitchcock to keep us interested, not only in how things will come out, but how he will keep himself from being bored in the process.  There are stumbles, but I think he largely succeeds.  He has good deal of help in his supporting cast, the entire Hollywood British acting constabulary it seems, and George Saunders, who always seemed to be in rehearsal for Addison De Witt.  Judith Anderson has the last word – a smart move, Mr. Selznick.



Image: 9/7

I found the Criterion DVD satisfactory.  It maintained a lusciousness and resolve even when projected to a 110 inch screen.  I held my breath when I executed the Play function on the MGM Blu-ray, fearful it would take away more than it would give.  A great sigh of relief could be heard across the valley: contrast is unchanged except for when it improves.  Resolution and sharpness maintains proper filmic grain while permitting us to see deeper into the movie. Greyscale is as good as can be.  MGM makes optimum use of the dual layered BD-50, reserving 41 of its 48 GB for the feature film. This is a very nice transfer.


Audio & Music: 7/10

Like both MGM’s concurrent releases of Notorious and Spellbound, the studio opted for the original mono track in a lossless format instead of re-imaging such films in 5.1.  Thank you, several times over.  Dialogue is clear, Waxman’s music breathes.  My only complaint, as with their Notorious and Spellbound Blu-rays, is that the MGM logo that precedes the movie is entirely too loud, requiring a level adjustment if you don’t want your ears blown off.



Extras: 8

Richard Schickel, perhaps best known for his reviews in Time Magazine, is an engaging raconteur.  He knows his material and, in his audio commentary, is chock full of insights about the production, cast and persons of interest.  There are a few gaps, so be on guard.  As expected, the extra features are presented in standard definition and may seem familiar.  In the 28-minute making-of piece, a gaggle of critics examine the relationship between producer and director and look at how the novel was adapted for the screen.  The 19-minute segment “The Gothic World of Daphne du Maurier” considers the life and work of the author of Don’t Look Now and The Birds.  The other features are self-explanatory.


Recommendation: 10

What’s not to like here? There’s Hitchcock’s Oscar winning movie with a terrific leading lady and an even more riveting witch. The image quality is as good as it’s likely to ever look for home theatre, the audio is unadulterated lossless mono, and the bonus items comprehensive.  Rebecca on Blu-ray comes Warmly Recommended.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

January 30, 2012



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