Hitchcock (Blu-ray Review)

The idea of a movie revolving around the making of Psycho is certainly an intriguing one, made better by the fantastic cast that was involved, with a wonderful looking Anthony Hopkins in the guise of the Master of Suspense.  That is not exactly what I got, but what I liked about this movie, is how it chose to be a fun, romanticized story about a man continuing to challenge himself, as well as a relationship drama involving his wife.  It could have been a more fact-based drama that follows recorded details to the letter, but the film is more energized in a different way, which is impressive, given the corpulence of Alfred Hitchcock.  To delve even deeper into the minds of the filmmakers involved with making a film revolving around the mind of the Master of Suspense, continue on to find out what is on this Blu-ray disc.


The film opens right after the premiere of North by Northwest in 1959.  Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) is greeted with congratulations, but also questioned about whether or not he should quit while he is ahead.  This leads to him seeking out his next project.  While Hitch’s wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) suggests looking into a story by writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), Hitch becomes much more intrigued by the book Psycho, which he feels he can turn into a film that is more than just a schlocky horror story.  So Hitch gains the rights, has his assistant, Peggy Robertson (Toni Collette), purchase every copy in the nation, in order to keep the story’s secrets hidden, and sets out to make the film.  Problems arise as Paramount wants nothing to do with financing the film.  This leads to Hitch putting up his own money and doing things differently than normal.  More drama ensues, as the shooting of the film takes its toll on the relationship between Hitch and Alma.

Hitchcock features a number of supporting actors, all representing people involved in the making of Psycho.  Scarlett Johansson is Janet Leigh, the film’s ‘leading lady’.  James D’Arcy is Anthony Perkins, who plays Norman Bates in the film, within this film.  Jessica Biel is Vera Miles.  Michael Stuhlbarg is Lew Wasserman, the famous talent agent.  Richard Portnow and Kurtwood Smith star as President of Paramount Barney Balaban and Censor Geoffrey Shurlock, the antagonists of the film.  And Michael Wincott plays Ed Gein, the murderer who served as inspiration for the story of Psycho.

I know a lot about Psycho.  I am not proclaiming to be any kind of expert (or a man who knew too much…sorry), but I have read a lot about the film, the making of the film, and the people involved.  What I enjoyed about Hitchcock is how it was not so much concerned about getting those details rights, as it was in telling a story about the struggles of this married couple.  Now, I am aware that Hichtcock was also made without the support of the Hitchcock estate, which led to the film having to work around how they portrayed the making of Psycho, but with that said, I was more pleased with how various references were made to stories I already know, rather than seeing the stuffier version of this movie, which is all facts and no fun.  As it stands, Hitchcock works because of its efforts to be an entertaining film, as opposed to just a period drama.

The two key performances here, which lead to most fun, as well as other thoughts regarding the film, of course belong to Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.  The two of them are great in this film and especially great together.  The way this relationship is portrayed and how the drama between them unfolds is effectively done and has you hoping they stay together by the end.  Sure, it is a little maudlin in the way this story plays out, but it is the strength of these performers that makes it work.  Hopkins, already impressive, given the makeup, is having a lot of fun as Hitch.  He brings a lot of what people know about the famous director, while also having his own qualities to make the performance not feel as much like imitation.  Mirren is even better in this film (though the fact that Alma is not as eccentric as Hitch might be one of the reasons), as her work as Alma is terrifically well-rounded in the way she makes this character the perfect balance to Hitchcock.  She knows how to argue with Hitch, tease him, have fun with him, and establish her authority.  If award consideration is given to either of these two, I won’t be surprised if Mirren is given more recognition.

Direction of this film was handled by Sacha Gervasi, who previously made the rather wonderful documentary, Anvil: The Story of Anvil.  For being his first time helming a feature film, it shows a bit, as the film comes off at being a glossier TV production at times, rather than a superlative theatrical experience, but at the same time, I did enjoy elements that Gervasi brought to the film, such as his use of Ed Gein as an imaginary ‘mentor’ figure for Hitch to interact with.  It also helps that, given the relative low budget nature of this film, the period design of the film, cinematography by Fincher regular Jeff Cronenweth, and even the Danny Elfman score (tidbit: he did the score for Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot Psycho remake disaster), all add to making the film work better.  It is the robust cast that only further excels its quality.

Where I think this film will find its naysayers are in the portrayal of the scenarios and what could be considered revisionist history in a sense.  Again, I like that this film was a more romanticized version of this story.  The script was handled by John J. McLaughlin, which is an adaptation of the novel, “Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello, and while that novel is much more meticulous in its details regarding the history of that process, this film is clearly more about being an entertaining film, with time devoted to dramatizing the relationship of the two central characters, which is fine by me.  As an example, it is well known that the shower scene in Psycho took multiple days and numerous shots.  The film handles this in a completely different matter, but it works due to how dramatic license has been utilized.  Really, as opposed to a stiff biopic like 2011’s J. Edgar, for example, Hitchcock works better when compared to something like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, which is equally entertaining and brimming with fine performances.  I may not be getting the dead-on accurate portrayal of the making of Psycho, but I still liked what I was given.

In a way, Hitchcock, is also similar to Spielberg’s Lincoln, in the way it is focused on a very specific time in this person’s life, as opposed to being an all-encompassing biopic.  With that, while I did like Lincoln for different reasons, Hitchcock works because it is a very entertaining film that has elements of drama, sure, but functions as a feature that is designed to show off this idealized version of a director many people are familiar with and what was going on during the making of one of his most popular films.  It is well-acted, with strong chemistry between the actors, and paced just fine, as it is focused and not too involved in presenting more than it has to.  Hitchcock was certainly a notorious figure and I was left spellbound.


These Fox Searchlight features always seem to come out great on Blu-ray.  This disc features a 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that does great justice to this digitally shot film.  David Fincher’s frequent collaborator Jeff Cronenweth handled cinematography on Hitchcock, and the Blu-ray transfer does a great job at presenting the feature and allowing us to see all the period details, with proper representation of the textures, colors, and overall smoothness of the feature.  I think the best note I can make is how the clarity of this Blu-ray still manages to not ruin the effect of the makeup on Anthony Hopkins.  It is a very clear picture, but not disorientingly so and it allows the viewer to enjoy the films art, makeup, and costume design.


Similarly, the audio track for this Blu-ray does wonderful justice to the feature.  The Blu-ray is fitted with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which is a great way to listen to the appropriate score by Danny Elfman.  Additionally, given the film’s emphasis on sound effects to heighten the reality a bit, this disc is well-balanced to really deliver on how the film’s sound design should play.  The dialogue is also quite clear throughout.  We get to really hear the Hitchcock vocal impression on display in this film, along with all the other members of this rather large ensemble cast.  It is a very well done audio track.


This film really has plenty of extra features to offer for those curious with the making of this film.  Short of having an all-encompassing look at the real Alfred Hitchcock, which can be found in many different places (like the various Hitchcock Blu-ray sets), Hitchcock has lots of material to show the viewer what they need to know about the making of this film.

Features Include:

Audio Commentary with Director Sacha Gervasi and Author Stephen Rebello – This is just an entertaining conversation that happens to have the film playing in the background.  Worth checking out.

Obsessed with Hitchcock – A 30-minute look at the making of this film, which does a good job of covering almost every aspect and features a number of interviews with cast and crew.

Becoming the Master:  From Hopkins to Hitchcock – A look at the process of transforming Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock.

Sacha Gervasi’s Behind-the-scenes Cell Phone Footage – This is basically fly-on-the wall footage from the set that happens to be filmed by the director.  It is entertaining to an extent, aside from the fact that it is shot with a cell phone.

Deleted Scene – A small scene that is fairly unnecessary, but fun to watch.  It is introduced by Sacha Gervasi.

The Story – A brief featurette about the film’s story.

The Cast – Some brief moments with members of the cast.

Danny Elfman Maestro – A look inside the process of scoring the film.

Remembering Hitchcock – A brief reflection on the man himself from those who worked with him and saw Hitchcock.

Hitch and Alma – A brief look at this couple’s relationship.

Hitchcock’s Cell Phone PSA – A funny ad about not bringing in cell phone’s into the theater.

DVD Copy of the Film

Digital and UltraViolet Copy of the Film


Among the people that I would offhand list as my favorite directors, Alfred Hitchcock would be one of them.  The movie I regard as my favorite horror movie (let alone a favorite movie of mine in general) is Psycho.  Getting a movie about the making of Psycho was a fun idea, even if the movie turned out to be different from that.  I enjoyed the film for its fun performances and was very pleased with how solid the Blu-ray turned out.  Regardless of opinions on the film, one can’t argue that the film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray.  And the bevy of special features also makes this a film worth looking into, as there are a lot of little bonuses worth taking a look at.  Feel free to take a look at this film, even if it doesn’t put you into a frenzy.

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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