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review added: 3/20/01



Marnie
Collector's Edition - 1964 (2000) - Universal

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD

Marnie Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B

Specs and Features

131 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:30:40, in chapter 13), Amaray keep case packaging, The Trouble with Marnie documentary, The Marnie Archives photo montage, production notes, cast and crew bios, theatrical trailer, weblink, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned


Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is a woman of many identities. She finds a new city in which to live, colors her hair, changes her name and finds work for a few weeks... before leaving town with a big chunk of her employer's money. She then takes another job in another town, with a law firm run by Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). Unbeknownst to Marnie, Rutland has done a lot of work with her previous employer and is well aware of her criminal history. Mark involves himself with her by he paying off her previous employer to keep him from pressing charges. Mark then asks Marnie to marry him and she agrees without putting much thought into it.

It's at about this point in the movie where the whole thing changes pace, and becomes more focused on Marnie and her dysfunctions. She's a woman so caught up in trying to forget about her past, that she fails to puts enough thought into life decisions that could potentially make her happy, instead making the kinds of choices that only cause her trouble. The more time she spends with Rutland (and the more he tries to understand her), the harder she pulls away from him.

All this leads up to a dramatic conclusion, that deals less with Marnie's constant thievery and more with her childhood traumas and turbulent relationship with her mother (Louise Latham). The film admittedly gets a little tedious here, but the conclusion is also the most revealing and shocking part of the story. Marnie was billed as a "sex mystery" and, indeed, parts of it are. But that aspect of the film isn't as blithe as the trailer would lead you to believe. The characters talk openly about sex, but the sex and mystery aspects of the story are almost separate issues entirely. After seeing one of the more pivotal scenes in the film, I can understand the reluctance of writer Joseph Stefano (who also penned Psycho) to write the male lead as Hitchcock would have liked. What makes the character of Rutland a little unsettling is the ease with which he squirms his way into Marnie's sex life. Marnie can't be intimate with men, and try as he may, Rutland is not the most understanding husband.

Marnie was the second of two films Tippi Hedren made with director Alfred Hitchcock. This was quite a different role than her more famous turn in The Birds. She shows a broader range of emotion here than she did in her previous work with Hitchcock. I really liked her in both films but, for one reason or another, her career never really caught fire outside of them. Connery does his part as the typically brooding, brandy-drinking, "I know what's best for you, goddamnit," 60's-style male lead. His is not as complex a role as Hedren's, but he too is effective in the part. Strong performances, and a willingness to tackle subjects that were (at the time) taboo, make Marnie greater than the sum of its weaknesses.

Universal has once again done an admirable job of bringing a classic (though not so well known, in this case) Hitchcock film to DVD. The new anamorphic transfer has its faults but, on the whole, it's a nice looking picture. Probably the biggest shortcoming of the transfer is a persistently grainy quality, that is sometimes subtle and other times is a little overbearing. Given the fact that this film is over thirty-five years old, a little grain is to be expected. Other than that, the picture is very nicely done. Colors are accurate and never oversaturated, and black level is constantly solid. There's little in the way of digital artifacting and edge enhancement is never a distraction.

On the audio side of things, the disc presents us with the film's original monaural sound mix. While this certainly lacks the dynamic range of a new 5.1 mix, it gets the job done. This track is all about the music and the dialogue, both of which sound fine (and you really can't ask for more than that in a mono track).

The features are an entertaining batch, but I don't know if they stand up compared to other Universal Collector's Editions. The first of the extras is The Trouble with Marnie, a thorough documentary on the genesis of the film. I've enjoyed all of the documentaries that Universal has done for their Hitchcock films, and this one is no exception. It starts with all the work that went into the making of the film and covers everything up until its release. There's quite a bit here about the mini-scandal surrounding the controversial rape scene (which takes place during Marnie's honeymoon) and it's very interesting. Also included is a montage of photographs that cover the making and marketing of Marnie. The remaining features are standard fare for a Universal release - the film's theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, production notes and the always-exciting Universal web link.

Marnie may not quite be what most expect from a Hitchcock film, but it is an often-overlooked classic and this DVD is a good way to discover it. Though the disc isn't on par with other Universal Hitchcock releases, it definitely stands on its own as a decent DVD release, with enough material to satisfy both the casual viewer and the completist collector.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com


The Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD




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