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When the arrestingly attractive Maddalena Anna Paradine (Alida Valli) is charged with poisoning her husband, she hires famous London barrister Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) to defend her. But, as Keane unravels Maddalena's exotic past, the young attorney becomes hopelessly infatuated with his captivating client. Now, allowing his heart to rule his head, Keane's blind obsession could cost him the case and his marriage. (From Kino’s official synopsis)
 
 Paradine Case, The
I’m not sure if there’s really such thing as an ‘obscure’ Alfred Hitchcock movie (especially not where his Hollywood productions are concerned), but there are definitely Hitchcock movies that are overlooked to the point that they are forgotten. The Paradine Case was Hitch’s final film with producer David O. Selznick (the relationship between the men had reportedly grown very stale) and released between two major highlights in his directorial career – Notorious (1946) and Rope (1948). As such, it sometimes has the air of a contractual obligation – a rushed project that could’ve easily ended up on television, had Hitchcock not taken an interest and attracted his usual pool of talent. This may not be the case, it may have been every bit as expensive and heavily planned as the films it sits between (without any proof, I strongly suspect that they recycled a number of set pieces from other Hitchcock/Selznick productions), but feels stilted compared to the high standard the director sets for himself. The screenplay’s structure is another part of the problem. Seemingly, Robert S. Hitchens’ original novel had burned too slowly, so, in an effort to press forward towards the juicy bits, the screenwriters – including Hitchcock’s wife/partner Alma Reville, future Under Capricorn (1949) & Stage Fright (1950) co-writer James Birdie, Spellbound (1945) & Notorious (1946) co-writer Ben Hecht, and Selznick himself – shuffled through the first two acts too quickly and mechanically. As a result, the first act is a bit of a lifeless info dump and the love triangle drawn between Tony, his wife, and his client never connects. In fact, the romantic subplot becomes a chore once the trail starts and the revelations begin to fly.
 
Of course, ‘lesser’ Hitchcock is still Hitchcock, so there’s plenty to appreciate. The camera work is deceptively simple, constantly moving without ever drawing attention to itself, and creating some positively penetrating point-of-view shots between long, unbroken shots (critics assume the director was sort of practicing with unbroken shots in the lead-up to Rope, which is made up of a string of ten minute long takes). The production design, albeit simplified in comparison to something, like Rebecca (1940) or Notorious, is still dramatic enough to elevate the material beyond the Perry Mason episode it could’ve been in lesser hands. And, while Gregory Peck’s rather thankless and bland lead performance, the supporting cast combines into a delectable slaw of acting styles. Ann Todd depends on her natural charms to convey veiled anxiety, Alida Valli (making her English-language debut, two years before appearing in Carol Reed’s The Third Man in 1949) takes a foggy, theatrical approach to what could’ve been a very typical femme fatale role, and Charles Laughton oozes loathsomeness and lechery, despite not being a major character – or even a villain!
 
 Paradine Case, The

Video


The Paradine Case hasn’t been included with any high-profile Hitchcock DVD collections, but it was released on the format several times, including discs from Anchor Bay in the US (now OOP), Aventi in France, Manga Films in Spain, and a special edition from Prism Direct in the UK. This Blu-ray version from Kino Lorber, as part of their Studio Classics line, is (as far as I can surmise) the first available HD version – in disc form or on streaming service. It is presented in full 1080p and 1.33:1, which is, I guess, slightly reframed from the OAR 1.37:1. There isn’t much information about the transfer itself, but it certainly meets the expectations for other pre-’70s, black & white Blu-rays that haven’t had a major 4K/2K restoration overhaul. Print damage is notable, including white dots, occasional warping between edits, blotchy patches (usually during fades), and a couple of vertical scratches, but nothing I’d call excessive. Grain appears even with only a slight tinge of snowy noise, which I assume is a CRT scanning artefact. The frame isn’t loaded with texture, but the edges are tight, element separation is tidy, and the hints of edge enhancement seem to be typical film development artefacts. Cinematographer Lee Garmes’ harsh and dramatic shadows (even the courtroom appears sinister) are supported by strong, but not overbearing, contrast levels.
 

Audio


The Paradine Case is presented in its original mono and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio sound. The mix is mellow and mostly dialogue-based, so there isn’t a whole lot to say about sound effects or layering. Performances are consistent and the sound floor is low and quiet without major distortion at high levels or sudden dips in volume. The soundtrack was credited to Franz Waxman, but Wikipedia tells me that Edward Rebner and Paul Dessau also wrote some cues. The dramatic melodies have decent dynamic range, despite being flattened by the single channel mixing and presentation. This disc also includes an isolated music & effects track, which is neat, but not exactly vital, considering the general lack of music & effects.
 
 Paradine Case, The

Extras


  • Commentary with critics/film historians Stephen Rebello & Bill Krohn – Rebello (the author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, pub. 1990) and Krohn (the author of Hitchcock at Work, pub. 2000) chat about The Paradine Case, while delving into the behind-the-scenes conflict and the in-film themes/motifs, along with the historical context surrounding the movie and the careers of its cast & crew. The two writers share the time well, supporting each other’s statements, doling out loads of amusing anecdotes, and not interrupting one another.
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut: Icon interviews Icon (12:57, HD) – Selections from the famous interview that pertain to The Paradine Case. The interview itself is audio only, so it plays over a series of stills and posters.
  • Conflict of Conscience: Gregory Peck and The Paradine Case (8:36, HD) – The late actor’s daughter Cecilia and son Carey recall their father’s working and personal relationship with Hitchcock.
  • Lux Radio Theater Presents: The Paradine Case (56:37, HD) – A 1949 radio play version of the story starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Louis Jourdan.
  • Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock (15:54, HD) – One last audio-only interview in which the director discusses The Paradine Case in relatively negative terms.
  • Restoration comparison (1:27, HD)
  • Trailer

 
 Paradine Case, The

Overall


So, The Paradine Case isn’t quite up to the standards of Hitchcock’s greatest, but it’s still a Hitchcock film and not even one of his worst, which puts it well above most films from most eras. Kino’s Blu-ray sports an average transfer, but makes up for its lack of a major video overhaul with more extras than a typical Studio Classics release. The expert commentary is a particularly valuable supplement, one that arguably makes the movie seem a bit better with context and behind-the-scenes stories.
 
 Paradine Case, The

 Paradine Case, The
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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