Lifeboat (Masters of Cinema)

Hitchcock joins Blu-ray's Masters of Cinema with his ship of fools

North by Northwest and Psycho. Other than the fact they were both directed by Alfred Hitchcock, what else links these two movies?

The answer is that they’re the only high profile Hitchcock movies to have received a hi-def release from either Warner Home Video or Universal Pictures – the studios that hold the vast majority of his films. But while these US majors continue to pontificate about releasing more of his films on the format, enter UK independent Eureka, which has licensed his 1945 classic Lifeboat for release under its Masters of Cinema banner.

Typically high concept, the film follows a small group of survivors trapped together on a lifeboat – including the captain of the U-boat that originally sunk their ship. With food running low and the German being the only able seaman, the group splinters as they debate the best course of action to ensure survival.

Picture: First impressions of the disc’s AVC 1.37:1 1080p encode aren’t particularly good. The opening shots are riddled with a horrific amount of debris and damage, leading you to think that perhaps the source materials simply weren’t up to the task at hand.

Thankfully, after the first few minutes things settle down and improve significantly. Contrast levels are particularly impressive, with the black-and-white photography looking extremely stable for a film of this vintage. There is still some softness to be seen from time to time, and minor speckles and small bits of dirt are frequently present in the image, but it’s hard to think how you could hope for anything more from a movie that’s fast approaching its 70th birthday.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Authenticity is the order of the day when it comes to the Blu-ray’s audio. There are no surround sound remixes to be found here, just a restored DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 presentation of the original mono soundtrack. And perfectly good it is, too, given the constraints it has to work within. Dynamic range is limited, there’s some sibilance at the top-end and bass is practically non-existent. But what were you expecting?
Audio rating: 3/5

Extras: In addition to a bonus DVD of the film and booklet, this Blu-ray also features some great extras. There’s a 12-minute extract from a phone interview between Hitchcock and François Truffaut and a 20-min retrospective doc. But best of all is the inclusion of two of Hitchcock’s wartime shorts, Bon Voyage and Aventue Malgache, in HD.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: Vintage Hitchcock given the Blu-ray treatment it deserves

Eureka, Region B BD/R2 DVD, £23 approx, On sale now