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The Trouble With Harry
review by Anthony D.
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
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 jacket...et 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
(4.5/5, NOT an average)