|Year||Region||Certificate||Running Time||Screen Ratios||Screen Format||Sides||Layers|
|1958||2||PG||124 minutes||1.85:1||Anamorphic PAL||1||Dual|
English Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Surround
Czech, Danish, Dutch, English
Finnish, French, German, Norwegian
Polish, Portuguese, Swedish
Strangers on a Train, Rear Window,
North By Northwest, Psycho,
The Birds, Marnie
|Since I pretty much agree with everything that Mike Sutton wrote about Vertigo in the R1 Reviews section, this is probably going to be the shortest review I've ever written for DVD Times - but it needed writing, since although the R2 DVD is identical on paper to its R1 opposite number (with all the extras present and correct for once), there's one small aspect in which it's noticeably superior.
And that is that while the R1 disc was non-anamorphic NTSC, this one is anamorphic PAL - and the picture quality resulting from this significantly higher resolution is flat-out stunning. Sourced from the expensively restored 70mm version (the film was originally shot in VistaVision, a system whereby the film passed horizontally through the camera, which gave a greater negative area to record widescreen images on), the quality is such that I simply can't believe we'll ever get a better small-screen version, at least not until high-definition televisions come of age.
As far as I'm concerned, as DVD transfers of 1950s films go, this sets a benchmark - right up there with Criterion's decade-defining The Passion of Joan of Arc (1920s), La Grande Illusion (1930s) and The Red Shoes (1940s) - and at least in terms of print condition and colour fidelity it's also superior to any 35mm print I've seen (as a former repertory cinema manager I've seen plenty, and they were mostly rather scratched, faded and washed-out). Only a restored 70mm print will offer a significant improvement on what you get here, and you've got precious little chance of seeing that too often - even in the unlikely event that you have a suitable projector to hand, the print will cost at least a thousand times more than the DVD!
The benefits of the extra definition are obvious right from the opening credits, where the spiralling patterns of Saul Bass' legendary designs are reproduced with barely a hint of moiré, something unimaginable on earlier small-screen versions (most of which simply fused the fine strands into one indistinct blob), and continue right up to the closing scenes in the tower, where Mike complained of "distracting blocky artefacts" - which is emphatically not a problem here: even when specifically looking for them, I couldn't find any, distracting or otherwise.
As for the sound, it's to all intents and purposes identical to that on the R1 version (i.e. the controversial multi-channel remixed version), but with the R2 disc you can flick between the commentary and the soundtrack via the Audio button (Mike complained that you couldn't on the R1 disc). The downside, though, is that you have to flick through several other languages as well, but it's still better than going via the menu. As with the R1 disc, there are 35 chapter stops.
Though I've seen the R1 version, I was unable to do a direct side-by-side comparison, having lent it to a friend who subsequently got burgled (with most DVDs, I'd have been livid if the insurers had replaced a R1 disc with its R2 cousin, but not in this case!). That said, I do recall the picture quality being exceptionally good considering the film's age and the fact that it was non-anamorphic NTSC - in fact, there not being a better alternative available at the time, I was more than happy with it.
But, crucially, it didnít make me go "wow" in the way this one did right from the start - and so I have no hesitation in recommending this DVD unreservedly, and would do so even if it didn't come with a set of high-quality extras (the commentary in particular is superb, and the restoration documentary a more than justified piece of self-congratulation). In fact, I'm delighted to confirm that despite the additional demands placed on the DVD's storage capacity by not only the anamorphic picture but also a formidable range of language and subtitle options, it still manages to match all the extras on the R1 disc feature for feature. That said, you have to dig deep for some of them: one of the trailers, the 'Foreign Censorship Ending' and 'The Vertigo Archives' designs/storyboards collection can only be accessed via the documentary's chapter menu (and there's no mention of them on the DVD sleeve either!) - but rest assured they're there.
So for once it's no contest - in every single department, the R2 disc is either identical or superior to the R1, and if Universal can keep up this standard with future Hitchcock DVDs, we're going to be in for some major treats over the next few years! This is unquestionably one of the finest all-round DVDs currently on the UK market - and the film has its moments as well.