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Image Entertainment presents
Under Capricorn (1949)

"No one knows about Sam and me, except...except...I'm not feeling very well."
- Henrietta Flusky (Ingrid Bergman)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 10, 2003

Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Michael Wilding, Joseph Cotten, Margaret Leighton
Other Stars: Cecil Parker, Denis O'Dea
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:56m:56s
Release Date: June 17, 2003
UPC: 014381544329
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- CB-C- D-

DVD Review

Alfred Hitchcock is renowned as the Master of Suspense for good reason. His films often keep the viewer at the edge of the seat; his very name as director is practically a guarantee of an entertaining ride. All of this makes it doubly disappointing to find him at the helm of this tedious costume drama.

Young Charles Adare (Michael Wilding) comes to New South Wales, Australia in the 1830s along with his brother, the new governor of the territory (Cecil Parker). He promptly meets up with felon-turned-gentleman Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten) and gets tangled into one of Sam's land deals. When Charles has dinner with Flusky, contrary to his brother's advice, he meets Sam's wife, the somewhat neurasthenic Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman), whom he coincidentally had known as a child. She has a bit of a drinking problem, however, and keeps running across shrunken heads (what they're doing in Australia, don't ask) in the mansion. As Charles becomes emotionally involved with her, he begins to learn more than he bargained for about Sam and Henrietta's past.

Adapted by actor Hume Cronyn from a novel by Helen Simpson, the film unspools like a Victorian drawing room melodrama, which is to say it's exceedingly talky and little occurs. Everything of interest happens offscreen or is visibly obscured even when it occurs onscreen, but mostly there's just endless prattle about responsibility and guilt. A mild amount of interest is generated by the prison-colony status of Australia and the self-made-men who grew out of that atmosphere. While these elements could conceivably make for serious drama, here it's pretty much perfunctory and little genuine emotion or sincerity is displayed by the principals.

Joseph Cotten is reliable as usual, but Ingrid Bergman turns in a surprisingly poor performance. I've never seen her grossly overacting like this; it would be seven years until her triumphal return to Hollywood in Anastasia in 1956. Michael Wilding manages two different moods: stiff and smug, which makes him seem like a slightly-less-evil George W. Bush. Given some unappealing leads on top of the blathering script, the result is snooze-inducing rather than suspenseful.

You can tell Hitchcock is trying to make something out of this mess; he frequently tries to use the camera to inject some visual interest into the proceedings, such as a huge pan from Cotten and Wilding chatting outside the house up to Henrietta's balcony; there's also some trademark direction of viewpoint such as emphasizing a poison-filled wineglass. But despite these valiant efforts, it's not enough to overcome the weak screenplay. If you ever wanted to sample a Hitchcock film, this is definitely not the place to begin.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture looks pretty good for a fifty-four-year-old film. The Technicolor is still plenty vivid, with the reds in particular coming through nicely. Moderate speckling is present throughout, and is a veritable snowstorm in the first reel. However, one could hardly demand this film get a major restoration effort. Textures are transferred well, with Bergman's satins in particular looking very nice indeed.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono English track has a substantial amount of hiss and noise present, as is to be expected in pictures of this vintage. Dialogue is clear enough and the score by Richard Addinsell has decent depth and presence though somewhat lacking in deep bass. On the whole, it's acceptable at best.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are zero extras. Chaptering is decent, with 24 stops.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A picture that could serve as the archetype for "tedious costume drama," with some surprisingly poor performances, though for the determined it is given a decent transfer. Don't expect any extras.


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