New on Blu-ray: The Alfred Hitchcock Classics 4K Collection, 'Beetlejuice' 4K, 'The Elephant Man', 'Ghost Ship'

The Alfred Hitchcock Classics 4K Collection

Hey, you ever hear of this Hitchcock guy? Yeah, he’s a real one-hit-wonder; the guy’s going nowhere! But seriously folks, Alfred Hitchock remains one of the most talked-about filmmakers of all time for a reason: he was a master of the craft. That’s not to say old Hitch’s movies are above criticism, but very few filmmakers have managed the unique blend of pure art and pure entertainment the way Hitchcock did (Steven Spielberg is his most natural successor).

The newly released Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection presents four of the filmmaker’s most well-known, well-regarded films – Rear WindowVertigoPsycho, and The Birds – on 4K. And let me tell you, even if you’ve seen these movies dozens of times already, there’s something exciting and fresh about watching them in 4K. To marvel as the jazzy opening credits of Rear Window play and the blinds go up in Jimmy Stewart’s apartment, and we’re suddenly looking out onto that courtyard with a whole new eye. Everything pops; footage shot decades ago seems fresh and vibrant.

There’s already been some hubbub about the fact that there are two versions of Psycho included here – the standard cut we all know by heart, and also “The extended version of the movie as seen in theaters in 1960 is exactly as intended by Alfred Hitchcock and now available with additional footage for the first time ever.” If you’re expecting this to be some big, drastic departure from the movie as you know it, you probably shouldn’t. It’s the same movie, but the “additional footage” coupled with the 4K transfer makes it feel genuinely new and unspoiled by time and familiarity. The infamous shower scene, for instance, is a bit more…well, explicit doesn’t sound like the right word. But certain shots linger just a tiny bit longer than what we’re used to, and that, too, goes a long way toward making this 60-year-old movie feel like something you haven’t seen before (because in truth, you haven’t – every version of this movie you’ve seen before has been the edited version).  

Own or Rent? 

You’ve gotta own this thing, folks. If you can swing it, and you’re a fan of Hitchcock, this is a no brainer. You’re getting four of the director’s best movies rendered in beautiful 4K. There’s something to be said about movies not shot in 4K being released in 4K. Some people take issue with this, but I do not – the color grading – even on a black and white film like Psycho – makes everything look vibrant and new. Is there still grain? Of course there is! These movies were shot on film. But that’s fine – the grain looks appropriate; homey, even. It belongs there.

Special Features Include: 

  • The Birds


Beetlejuice 4K

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure helped make Tim Burton a known quantity as a director. But before he would become a full-blown blockbuster filmmaker in 1989 with Batman, Burton made Beetlejuice, the type of creepy, quirky oddity that seems tailor-made for his sensibilities. A dark comedy where the majority of the main characters are already dead, Beetlejuice still holds up as it arrives on 4K.

Barbara and Adam Maitland (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) are very excited for a staycation, but as bad luck would have it, they die after their car goes off a bridge. Now, they’re ghosts, and they’re stuck in their house (why they’re stuck in a place they didn’t die is never made entirely clear; shouldn’t they be stuck haunting the bridge they drove off of?). Being a ghost turns out to not be so bad – at first. Then the Deetz family moves into the house and turns the Matidland’s afterlife into hell. While they connect with the Deetz’s gothy daughter (Winona Ryder), they mostly want the family gone, and so they make a bad decision: they call in Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a “bio-exorcist” who claims to get rid of the living.

Keaton is obviously the thing everyone remembers about this movie (aside from Ryder’s performance and Danny Elfman’s bombastic score). Which leads me to this controversial statement: his schtick gets to be a little too much for me these days. When I was a kid, I was enamored with the character. Now, as an adult, Keaton’s motormouthed whacked-out performance is almost exhausting. I’m not saying it’s a bad performance – Keaton is a wonderful actor, and he’s really going for it here. But he seems so committed to making Beetlejuice as repulsive as possible that it starts to drain the energy out of the movie. Perhaps I’m just getting older now, but when I revisit Beetlejuice, I tend to find Beetlejuice himself is my least-favorite element on display. I’m much happier spending time with everyone else.

Own or Rent? 

If you don’t already own a copy of Beetlejuice, then yes, by all means, scoop this up. However, if you’re happy with what you have and don’t care much about 4K, I wouldn’t rush out for this. There are zero new special features here. You’d think that someone, somewhere, might have suggested some new interviews or something along those lines for this 4K release. Sadly, that didn’t happen. But the 4K transfer is sharp enough to appeal to Beetlejuice fans looking to upgrade.

Special Features Include: 

  • Three episodes from the animated Beetlejuice TV Series.
  • Theatrical trailer


The Elephant Man

After releasing Eraserhead in 1977, David Lynch put his name on the map. It was a weird map to strange locations, but it was a map nonetheless. While the film wasn’t what you’d call a “hit,” it made an impact and grew itself a cult following. By 1980, Lynch was ready for his follow-up, and it wasn’t exactly what anyone was expecting. Sure, he was making another black and white film about a stranger figure, but The Elephant Man is Lynch growing even further as a filmmaker. What could’ve been a standard biopic, or something sappy about overcoming your troubles, turns into something strange and dreamy in Lynch’s hand.

Based on the true story of Joseph Merrick (inexplicably called John Merrick by his biographer), The Elephant Man finds the horribly deformed Merrick working as a sideshow freak in Victorian London. He catches the attention of the kindly Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), who takes Merrick into his care. Buried in incredibly convincing makeup, John Hurt‘s title character is almost painfully kind and sweet despite the horrors inflicted upon him by a cruel world. And part of what makes The Elephant Man work so well is the way Lynch is able to tap into that kindness; that humanity – even when things are hopelessly bleak. Say what you will about Lynch, but for all his obsessions with the dark and the deranged, he has goodness and empathy in his heart, and he’s not afraid to show it (sometimes).

Own or Rent? 

This is an own. Anytime a David Lynch film joins the Criterion Collection, it’s nearly impossible to resist (now please, give us all the Criterion Lost Highway we deserve). As far as new features go, here we have Lynch reading from his book Room to Dream. The rest of the features have been carried over from previous releases, but to have them all here in that Criterion package is just too good to pass-up.

Special Features Include: 

  • New 4K digital restoration
  • Director David Lynch and critic Kristine McKenna reading from Room to Dream, a 2018 book they coauthored
  • Archival interviews with Lynch, actor John Hurt, producers Mel Brooks and Jonathan Sanger, director of photography Freddie Francis, stills photographer Frank Connor, and makeup artist Christopher Tucker
  • Audio recording from 1981 of an interview and Q&A with Lynch at the American Film Institute
  • The Terrible Elephant Man Revealed, a 2001 documentary about the film
  • Joseph Merrick: The Real Elephant Man, a 2005 program featuring archivist Jonathan Evans
  • Trailer and radio spots
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: Excerpts from an interview with Lynch from the 2005 edition of filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s book Lynch on Lynch, and an 1886 letter to the editor of the London Times concerning Merrick, by Francis Culling Carr Gomm, chairman of the London Hospital


Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship is not a very good movie. But it maintains a kind of fanbase because it admittedly has a great opening scene, where a group of poor souls on a cruise ship are brutally killed by a long thin wire that snaps and ends up cutting everyone in half. It’s gruesome, gory, and done with practical effects. And, yes, I’ll admit it: it looks great.

Everything after that, though, is a slog. After our killer intro, we meet a group of salvagers looking to make big money on a big score at sea. And hey, wouldn’t you know it, the ship from the beginning of the film – a ship that’s been missing for decades. But before our salvagers can collect their booty they have to deal with evil ghosts and demons that lurk about the ship.

It’s a sound concept, no doubt. It just doesn’t work, primarily because we don’t give a shit about any of the characters. Not even Gabriel Byrne, doing his best as the captain of the salvage crew, nor Julianna Margulies, who goes into Ripley mode as the movie progresses, can right this sinking ship. But hey – how about that opening scene?

Own or Rent? 

God, do I really want to sit here and recommend you buy Ghost Ship? That you take the money you work hard for and use it to buy a movie that features a demon who gets down to the music of Mudvayne? I really don’t know if I can go that far. If you’re a horror completist, and you must have Ghost Ship on your shelf, then sure, scoop that baby up. Otherwise, you can rent this from Amazon for $2.99.

Special Features Include: 

  • NEW This Isn’t Real – An Interview With Actor Isaiah Washington
  • NEW Dark Castle At Sea – An Interview With Producer Gil Adler
  • NEW Every Body On Board – An Interview With Makeup Effects Supervisor Jason Baird
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Director Steve Beck
  • Max On Set: Ghost Ship Featurette
  • Visual Effects Featurette
  • A Closer Look At The Gore Featurette
  • Designing The Ghost Ship Featurette
  • Secrets Of The Antonia Graza Clips
  • Mudvayne “Not Falling” Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailer

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