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The Trouble With Harry

review by Anthony D.

Studio: Universal

Running Time: 100 minutes

Starring John Forsythe, Shirley MacLaine, Mildred Natwick, Mildred Dunnock, Edmond Gwenn and Jerry Mathers not as "The Beaver"

Screenplay by John Michael Hayes

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: "Trouble With Harry Isn't Over" Documentary, Photographs, Poster Gallery, Cast and Crew Bios, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, Spanish Dolby 2.0 Mono, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search

"The Trouble with Harry" is one of those rare, unique films that manages to mix macabre humor with romance, and come up with a charming confection. In the hands of a lesser director than Alfred Hitchcock, "The Trouble with Harry" might come across as arch, smarmy and humorless. Historically speaking, this is the closest that a Hitchcock film comes to laugh-out-loud comedy. You see, the trouble that Harry has is that he's dead, but won't stay buried. Thus flows Hitchcock's comedy concerning a corpse.

A young boy, the ever-popular Jerry (The Beaver!) Mathers, stumbles across a well-dressed corpse in a copse of dazzling trees amongst the finest a Vermont autumn has to offer. When he runs off to tell his mother of his valuable find, a naval captain (Academy Award Winner Edmund Gwenn "Miracle on 34th Street") who has been hunting rabbit fears that one of his three shots may have murdered the hapless Harry. After several close calls, a nearsighted doctor, a tramp stumbling across the body, the boy returns with his beautiful mother, Jennifer (Shirley MacLaine in an astonishing film debut), who is calmly thankful that Harry is dead, and takes the boy home for some fresh lemonade. As the Captain struggles to move the body to a safe hiding place, he is met by the town spinster (Mildred Natwick in a truly delightful deadpan performance) who ably assists him, then hopefully asks the captain over to her house for coffee and blueberry muffins. Add to the mix an artist (John Forsythe) from the big city who unsuccessfully sells his paintings at a roadside cider stall run by the town's one entrepreneur Mrs. Wiggs (Mildred Dunnock) and several burials and un-burials, a door that inexplicably opens on its own, dead rabbits, live frogs and some of the least subtle sexual innuendos ever to grace the screen, and you have the Hitchcock classic "The Trouble with Harry."

Universal has presented "The Trouble with Harry" in a glorious, true VistaVision widescreen anamorphic transfer properly framed with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. I haven't enough compliments in my vocabulary to describe how beautiful this transfer appears; I'm not just talking about the gorgeous colors of nature, but check out the lovely lavender frock designed by Edith Head for Shirley MacLaine, the products lining Mrs. Wiggs' Emporium's shelves, the solid white walls on the interior of Jennifer's house, the deep navy blues (NOT blacks) of the Captain's cetera. There are times when the clarity of the VistaVision camera creates a true three-dimensional effect with its startling realistic captures. To be perfectly frank, this transfer impressed nearly as much as Universal's previously released "Vertigo," the definitive restoration master. One or two times I noticed an artifact or two creeping across the screen, but "The Trouble with Harry" did not undergo the extensive restorations associated with the previously mentioned "Vertigo" or the currently restored "Rear Window."

The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, which is serviceable. At times there is a harshness present, and many times the dialogue is apparently looped. Bernard Herrmann's delicious score sounds wonderful, though. Alternatively speaking, one could opt for the Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish mono track, should one want to give the film a more European feel.

As befitting "The Alfred Hitchcock Collection," "The Trouble with Harry" features a new retrospective look at the making of the film. Compiled by the very busy Laurent Borzeau, the featured interviewees include Patricia Hitchcock, screenwriter John Michael Hayes, associate producer Herbert Coleman and the ever so suave John Forsythe sharing memories of the filming in Vermont as well as the Hollywood soundstages. The trailer that has been included is not for the film itself, but rather for the first videotape issue of "The Trouble with Harry;" it is presented in full-frame, and it's startling to see the video box pop up at the end. As with all Universal Hitchcock titles, the dvd also comes equipped with production notes, cast and filmmakers' biographies and a delight still gallery of posters and production stills. Unlike several Hitchcock titles, "The Trouble with Harry's" clamshell case does not hold a four page insert: only one page (front and back) showing the cover artwork and the chapter list.

"The Trouble with Harry" was not a successful American film for Alfred Hitchcock. Audiences wanting his normal dosage of suspense were disappointed that "the master" had taken them on a droll journey wherein death was a laughing matter. European and Asian audiences embraced the film and its sardonic sensibilities. Film historians list the film as the first of a long line of collaborations with composer Bernard Herrmann and Hitchcock, and relationship which would last over a decade. "The Trouble with Harry" may be considered minor Hitchcock by some, but the revelations of the dvd, prove once and for all that there's no trouble at all with preserving this gem for future generations.

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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