Alfred Hitchcock: The Signature Collection Alfred Hitchcock

The place of Alfred Hitchcock in the annals of film history is secure, of that there can be no doubt. Having directed not a handful but more than a dozen films that are deservedly called classics, the drawback has been that much of Hitchcock's body of work has gone undiscovered, buried under the collective critical praise for Psycho, The 39 Steps, The Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window… the list goes on. So this Signature Collection is an excellent place to land for the Hitchcock fan interested in digging a little deeper into the rewards of his back catalogue. In terms of period, most of these films are from the 1940s and '50s: 1940's excellent Foreign Correspondent is the earliest and renowned classic North By Northwest, from 1959, is the oldest. Both Northwest and another great Hitchcock thriller, Strangers On A Train, have been previously reissued but the other seven films here are all new to DVD. Of those, Correspondent is probably the best and most underrated of his films not considered in the "classic" cannon. Its remarkable set pieces — like a piece of work set in a working windmill in Amsterdam — not only predate North By Northwest but are in many ways early versions. Most of the rest of the films — 1941's Suspicion, with Cary Grant and John Fontaine, 1956's The Wrong Man, with Henry Ford and Vera Miles, or I Confess, the priestly whodunit with Montgomery Clift and Anne Baxter — fall into the well-worn Hitchcock category of "wronged men": those suspected of crimes who spend the bulk of the action first convincing a beautiful woman of their innocence and then clearing their name. But what's delightful about The Signature Collection is that it reveals something that Hitchcock is certainly not known for: his sense of humour. His trademark framing and quick-paced storytelling are certainly all present in the comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith, where a bickering married couple discover they are, in fact, not legally married. (The Mr. and Mrs. Smith movie starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, due next year, is not a remake.) But humour is sprinkled throughout the theatre-set Stage Fright as well, once again toying with mistaken identity and twisty plot revelations. Plus: "making of" doc on each film; commentary on North By Northwest and Strangers On A Train, featurettes and preview version of Strangers On A Train. (Warner)