am 16. April 2017
JAMAICA INN [1939 / 2016] [75th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray + DVD] [UK Release] Superb Direction . . . Charles Laughton is Colourful and Sinister! An Entertaining and Surprisingly Dark Period Drama!
Here is a rediscovered classic by the master of suspense, fully restored in 4K in collaboration with the British Film Institute from an archival picture negative. Alfred Hitchcock turned to the work of Daphne Du Maurier a number of times throughout his career. When he made the move to Hollywood, Alfred Hitchcock adapted her novel “Rebecca,” the end results securing the Academy Award® for Best Picture. When he needed to follow up the ground-breaking horror of ‘Psycho,’ and adapted her short story “The Birds” and created another milestone of the genre. ‘JAMAICA INN’ is based on Daphne Du Maurier’s classic tale of wreckers in 19th century Cornwall.
In this dark period drama, recently orphaned Mary Yellan [Maureen O Hara] in her first major film role, arrives at Jamaica Inn from Ireland to live with her aunt. Unaware that it serves as the headquarters for a murderous gang responsible for shipwrecks along the Cornish coast, she soon finds herself embroiled in backstabbing; conspiracy and villainy presided over by the local squire, Sir Humphrey Pengallan [Charles Laughton] and Mary Yellan’s efforts to stop their wicked ways lead her down a path filled with murder and betrayal.
Though dominated by Charles Laughton’s wonderfully flamboyant performance, ‘JAMAICA INN’ also finds room for a rogue s gallery of British character actors including Robert Newton [David Lean’s ‘Oliver Twist’], Basil Radford [‘The Lady Vanishes’], Leslie Banks [‘The Most Dangerous Game’] and Mervyn Johns [‘Dead of Night’]. It also stands out as one of the most atmospheric of Alfred Hitchcock’s British films as well as one of his most unfairly neglected works. ‘JAMAICA INN’ was the first of Alfred Hitchcock's adaptations of Daphne Du Maurier's novels including ‘REBECCA’ and ‘THE BIRDS.’ It was also Alfred Hitchcock's last film made in the UK before coming to America. The 75th Anniversary Edition of the original theatrical release of ‘JAMAICA INN.'
FILM FACT: Besides Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara, secondary characters are played by several notable stage-and-screen character actors of the time, including "bruiser-type" actor Leslie Banks (who played General Zharov in 'The Most Dangerous Game') as Joss Merlin, and Robert Newton in an uncharacteristic role as James 'Jem' Traherne, a suave young secret-police agent. In March 1939, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood to begin his contract with David O. Selznick. Thus, as it was said in the beginning of this article, ‘JAMAICA INN ' was his last British picture, as well as one of his most successful. It is the last film Alfred Hitchcock made in the United Kingdom before he moved to the United States. The film is a period piece set in Cornwall in 1819; and the real Jamaica Inn still exists, and is on the edge of Bodmin Moor, which is in the north-eastern part of Cornwall in England. The film still garnered a large profit of US $3.7 million, a huge success at the time at the box office. Daphne du Maurier was not pleased with the finished production and for a while considered withholding the film rights to the film ‘Rebecca.’
Cast: Charles Laughton, Horace Hodges, Maureen O'Hara, Hay Petrie, Frederick Piper, Emlyn Williams, Herbert Lomas, Clare Greet, William Devlin, Jeanne De Casalis, Mabel Terry-Lewis, A. Bromley Davenport, George Curzon, Basil Radford, Leslie Banks, Marie Ney, Wylie Watson, Morland Graham, Edwin Greenwood, Mervyn Johns, Stephen Haggard, Robert Newton, Robert Adair (uncredited), Marie Ault (uncredited), O.B. Clarence (uncredited), William Fazan (uncredited), Archie Harradine (uncredited), Mary Jerrold (uncredited), Harry Lane (uncredited), Sam Lee (uncredited), Alan Lewis (uncredited), John Longden (uncredited), Aubrey Mather (uncredited), Philip Ray (uncredited) and A. George Smith (uncredited)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producers: Charles Laughton (uncredited) and Erich Pommer
Screenplay: Alma Reville (continuity), J.B. Priestley (additional dialogue), Joan Harrison (screenplay), Sidney Gilliat (screenplay/dialogue) and Daphne Du Maurier (novel) (uncredited)
Composer: Eric Fenby
Cinematography: Bernard Knowles and Harry Stradling Sr.
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 1.0 LPMC Audio Mono and 2.0 LPMC Audio Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 99 minutes
Region: Blu-ray: Region B/2 and DVD: PAL
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Renown Pictures Corporation Ltd. / Mayflower Pictures / Cohen Film Collection / BFI [British Film Institute] / Arrow Academy
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: ‘JAMAICA INN’  is set in 19th century the county of Cornwall, that is situated on England’s rugged southwestern tip, and Jamaica Inn is home to a group of pirates who make their living by robbing ships that run aground on the treacherous nearby coast. Their schemes begin to unravel with the arrival of a young Irish woman Mary Yellen [Maureen O'Hara] who uncovers their plot with the help of a dashing undercover naval officer. A ship runs aground off the Cornish coast near Jamaica Inn, somebody having extinguished the beacon, and some men kill all the surviving sailors and loot the cargo. Mary Yellen, is the orphaned niece of Joss Merlyn [Leslie Banks] the innkeeper, is heading for Jamaica Inn to live there but the carriage driver refuses to stop there, instead dumping her outside the house of Sir Humphrey Pangellan [Charles Laughton], who takes her to her destination.
The opening scene of the ship being lured onto the rocks and the smugglers rushing down to slaughter the crew is vivid and very well pulled off, the cutting from a quite impressive model of the ship to the actors trying to steer it to safety and the smugglers on the rocks, all in Elstree Studios huge water tank, being almost seamless. The brutality of the killing of the sailors, though bloodless, is quite shocking, especially when one guy seems to survive and a smuggler goes to knife him off-screen.
'JAMAICA INN’  was the first of three Daphne Du Maurier adaptations that Alfred Hitchcock directed, which would seem to indicate something of the esteem in which he held the novelist. (The other two films were, of course, 'Rebecca'  and 'The Birds' . But in fact it was lead actor Charles Laughton who initially suggested that Alfred Hitchcock direct the project. Charles Laughton had just established a production company named Mayflower Films with the famed German producer Erich Pommer, who had relocated to England after the rise of the Nazis in Germany. From the very start 'JAMAICA INN’ was conceived as a starring vehicle for Charles Laughton, and the presence of a competing creative force in the film perhaps contributed to Alfred Hitchcock's general unease about directing it. During this time Alfred Hitchcock also read the galleys for the soon-to-be-published 'Rebecca' and decided at once to adapt as his first feature in Hollywood.
Mary Yellen [Maureen O'Hara], a young Irish woman whose parents have passed away, has come to Cornwall to stay with her aunt Patience Merlyn [Marie Ney] and Patience's husband Joss Merlyn [Leslie Banks], who manages the seaside Jamaica Inn. Mary Yellen discovers that Joss Merlyn heads a gang of criminals who use a beacon to lure ships to their doom on the rocks, then slaughter the men on board and seize the valuables. Unbeknownst to all except Joss Merlyn [Leslie Banks], the mastermind behind the scheme is none other than Sir Humphrey Pengallan [Charles Laughton], a local magistrate who has a predilection for beautiful objects, becomes obsessed with Mary Yellen and decides he must possess her. But when Mary Yellen saves the life of James 'Jem' Traherne [Robert Newton], a member of the gang wrongly accused of skimming the loot, and falls in love with him, and Mary Yellen’s own life is suddenly in danger.
With Charles Laughton setting the pace then, which is jolly enough, though slower than Alfred Hitchcock would have liked, 'JAMAICA INN’ has become a pardonably free translation of Daphne Du Maurier's romantic novel about the disreputable tavern on the Cornish coast in the Eighteenth century where an innocent country girl, seeking her Aunt Patience, found herself in a den of ship-wreckers and murderers led by her uncle under the secret patronage of the local squire, Sir Humphrey Pengallan. The unmasking of the squire, who loves nice things and never lets us forget the strain of insanity in the Sir Humphrey Pengallan breed, is a matter less of suspense than of straightforward narration, but the tale-spinning has been glib and picturesque.
There are other virtues, especially the marvellous Maureen O'Hara, who is lovely, and who plays Mary Yellen well this side of ingénue hysteria, with charming naturalness and poise, with even a trace of self-control in her screams. Leslie Banks is capital as Joss Merlyn, the wrecker ringleader, with a fine crew of cutthroats around him and Emlyn Williams, Wylie Watson, Edwin Greenwood among them. Marie Ney as the girl's aunt, Robert Newton as the undercover man, George Curzon as one of Sir Humphrey's blanker friends is splendid in their degree.
Daphne Du Maurier's original novel of “Jamaica Inn” contains of many elements from gothic literature, including a bleak, windswept landscape, a mysterious inn, and violent passions, anticipating the author's full embrace of the genre in 'Rebecca.' Alfred Hitchcock and his screenwriters made some significant changes to the original story: in the book Mary Yellan's love interest was Joss Merlyn's younger brother and the villain was a mad vicar named Davey. Naturally, Charles Laughton had that juicy part in mind for himself. However, since they wanted to achieve the widest possible distribution in the USA, they decided to consult with the Hays Production Code Administration during the script development stage. Not surprisingly, the American censors balked at the idea of a clergyman being the villain, so the scriptwriters invented the character of Sir Humphrey Pengallan instead. During its original cinema release, 'JAMAICA INN’ was usually regarded as more of a Charles Laughton vehicle than an Alfred Hitchcock film.
Blu-ray Video Quality – This brand new 4K restoration look of 'JAMAICA INN’ is totally stunning and especially with its 1080p encoded image and equally presented in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the image is incredibly stable throughout, offering impressive amounts of fine detail. Contrast is very solid, providing deep blacks and impressively gradated grey scale. Resolution is superb. This is just a pristine restoration. The results here are by and large stupendous, offering a wonderfully stable smooth looking image which preserves its natural grain field while offering excellent amounts of fine detail. Contrast is solid, providing support for some lustrously deep blacks and impressively graduated grey scale. Resolution is so much improved that at times it seems possible to see little snippets of spirit gum affixed to Charles Laughton's face in order to give him his comically bushy eyebrows. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – This 'JAMAICA INN’ Blu-ray disc features an uncompressed 1.0 LPCM Audio Mono track which is much better than expected, especially with the release of the previous inferior DVD release. The sounds are quite full throughout, with just a slight drop in the upper registers. Dialogue is very clean throughout, with no notable hisses or pops. Any age related wear and tear has been largely mitigated by the brilliant restorative process, and the result is a very commendable and listenable audio track.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
New 4K digital restoration by the Cohen Film Collection and the BFI [British Film Institute].
High Definition Blu-ray 1080p Definition and Standard 480i Definition DVD Presentation.
Uncompressed 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio Presentation.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Special Feature: Shipwrecked in a Studio: The Making of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘JAMAICA INN’  [1080p] [1.78:1] [13:05] A visual essay by Donald Spoto, author of The Dark Side Of Genius: The Life Of Alfred Hitchcock and Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies. This is a new video essay which is hosted by author Donald Spoto, and here we get to see on camera Donald Spoto, talking about the genius of the director Alfred Hitchcock. Donald Spoto tells us that in the 1930s, an Irish teenager, Maureen Fitzsimmons [Maureen O'Hara] had considerable success on stage in her native Dublin, but everything changed when Maureen Fitzsimmons met Charles Laughton, the famous actor and producer and was very impressed when he met Maureen Fitzsimmons and decided to put her under an exclusive contract to Charles Laughton, who then decided to change her name to Maureen O'Hara, which in her autobiography hated the name and always referred herself in later life as Maureen Fitzsimmons. Charles Laughton decided to cast her in the 1936 Daphne Du Maurier best-selling novel “Jamaica Inn” and of course the film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who hated making the film, which was shot in September and October of 1938, after his great success of the film 'The Lady Vanishes' and his outré expressionist style of filming was when Alfred Hitchcock worked in Berlin and Munich film studios in the 1920s. In the Daphne Du Maurier novel, the leading character was a sadistic parson of the church, which Alfred Hitchcock wanted to be portrayed in the film, but because of the Hays Code of Censorship restrictions, the character had to be changed to a deranged sadistic country squire, and of course Alfred Hitchcock was very upset, as he loved to challenge the system, especially of the split personality of the Charles Laughton character in the film. Alfred Hitchcock was exasperated and frustrated with Charles Laughton, because of his erratic behaviour and attitude in wanting to take too many takes of a certain scene, but because Charles Laughton was the producer, Alfred Hitchcock hands were tied. But when Charles Laughton direct Charles Laughton in the 1947 film 'The Paradine Case' Charles Laughton had mellowed quite a lot and was perfect in his role in the film as the sadistic judge character. ‘JAMAICA INN’ was a total nightmare to film and several actors were injured and one died from pneumonia, but the critics praised the look of the film, especially when the ship crashes on the rocks, and especially amazing, as it was all filmed in the Elstree Studios in London. Because Daphne Du Maurier novel had long sprawling pages of words, Alfred Hitchcock had to bring in the great English playwright J. B. Priestley, and the witty dialogue was contributed by Emlyn Williams, who is the main villainous character in ‘JAMAICA INN.’ Despite everyone's effort, especially all of the writers, Daphne Du Maurier complained about the film not being true to her novel, but of course the novel is always going to be slightly different from the film in many ways and at one point Daphne Du Maurier was contemplating withholding the rights to two of her films, especially 'Rebeca' and ‘JAMAICA INN,’ but because David O. Selznick offered Daphne Du Maurier a substantial heavy money incentive, the author dropped her claim of was contemplating withholding the rights. Donald Spoto points out that Maureen O'Hara is the only surviving member of the entire team of 'Jamaica Inn' and in 2014 Maureen O'Hara celebrated her 94th Birthday. Another interesting fact that Donald Spoto mentions, is that in Cornwall in England, there is indeed a lodging place named Jamaica Inn and dates from the 18th Century and was originally a haven for smugglers and pirates and it both inspired Daphne Du Maurier novel and Alfred Hitchcock film and to day you can actually visit the Jamaica Inn in Cornwall and stay in their cosy rooms, but beware, as many a visitor informs us that the place is haunted by a crew of very disturbed ghosts. So there ends a really fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes of the making of the Alfred Hitchcock 'Jamaica Inn' film and this special is well worth viewing. The only slightly negative aspect to this Donal Spoto special is that you can actually see him reading either his notes or a script of some sort.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [1.37:1] [1:26] This is a re-release of the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘JAMAICA INN,’ but this time it is presented in a stunning 4K presentation. Just shows you how the professional video company Arrow Academy can produce something spectacular with this Blu-ray disc, and especially in conjunction with Cohen Media Group, can make an effort in spending considerable amount of money, so why can't other Video Companies do the same. But with this trailer, they announce that it is Alfred Hitchcock’s Final British Film. S Rediscovered Classic Fully Restored in 4K. Based on the Novel by Daphe Du Maurier. Author of REBECCA and THE BIRDS. Official Selection CANNES CLASSICS Festival De Cannes 2014. NYFF52: The New York Film Festival 2014. All in all it is a brilliant presentation, especially showing off a brilliant stunning print.
Feature-length Audio Commentary by film critic Jeremy Arnold: Here we get an introduction to the film by the film critic Jeremy Arnold, and announces that you are watching the film ‘JAMAICA INN' with him with this 1939 film, starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara and based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier and directed by Alfred Hitchcock before he left England to pursue his career in Hollywood. Jeremy Arnold informs us that he personally has written about Movies and Hollywood over a very long period of time. Jeremy Arnold also informs us that the fact you are listening to his audio commentary, and hopefully it means you have already watched ‘JAMAICA INN' and you also agree that the restoration people have done a fantastic job in producing this stunning and beautiful 4K restoration, but sadly mentions that the Alfred Hitchcock film has had a lot of critics who have said very disparaging negative remarks about this film and sadly Alfred Hitchcock rarely wanted to talk about ‘JAMAICA INN.' Alfred Hitchcock had such a terrible negative experience in making the film, especially as Jeremy Arnold points out that people do not think it as a typical Alfred Hitchcock's film, but despite this, Jeremy Arnold thinks it is an enjoyable splendid film, exceptional British actors, and all of the professional people behind-the-scene who helped to make this film, which I totally agree with him 100%, especially with this stunning 4K restoration presentation, compared to the inferior and ghastly inferior DVD release that I use to have in my DVD collection. Jeremy Arnold talks extensively about the musical score, which is basically the samethroughout the film, until the end credits. Jeremy Arnold also points out that Alfred Hitchcock does not like to have lots of composed music in his films, and tends to make sound a much greater priority to be more prominent feature of his films. Another thing Jeremy Arnold points out that when we first see Charles Laughton acting as a madman, which was like his performance when Charles Laughton was in the 1933 Alexander Korda film 'The Private Life of Henry VIII.' We find out the process of how they eventually got to film ‘JAMAICA INN,' where we have to go back to 1937, when Charles Laughton was acting in a major film that was never complete and that was 'I, Claudius' which was produced by Alexander Korda and directed by Josef von Sternberg, and because the actress Merle Oberon had a nasty car accident and took a while to recover, it was a good excuse to close down the production of 'I, Claudius,' because it was going massively over budget, and consequently the film was never completed, but one nice consequence of this, the BBC used the existing footage in a 70-minute documentary 'The Epic That Never Was' , which was hosted by Dirk Bogarde and featuring the opening of Thus Spoke Zarathustra composition. But because Charles Laughton felt he had no control over his destiny and his acting career and especially with any film he was involved in, especially in the directing and producing department, Charles Laughton decided to form a partnership with producer Erich Pommer in 1937 and they named their new company Mayfair Pictures Corporation. When we get to Chapter 6, Jeremy Arnold mentions about the beautiful restoration of the print of ‘JAMAICA INN' and is a total revelation, because for many decades there have been no good looking prints available of ‘JAMAICA INN' or any good audio sound for that matter and is really first time in ages that anyone has had a chance to view and hear this film properly, and Jeremy Arnold feels the previous poor technical quality of the print up to now is a big reason why ‘JAMAICA INN' has been so badly dismissed by its critics and he now hopes that will all changed when people see this stunning Blu-ray disc, which I totally agree with him 100%, because as I have informed you before, especially when I had the atrocious inferior DVD release and totally amazed how that Company was allowed to ever release such a bad quality video onto the DVD format and I soon dumped it out of my collection, that is why this print is totally awesome and you can now see what Alfred Hitchcock was trying to produce with this film. Jeremy Arnold also informs us the bizarre story about Maureen O'Hara getting married to a production assistant named Harry Brown, that Maureen states in her autobiography that she did not love the man, despite being winded and dined by the man while making 'Jamaica Inn' and near the end of the filming the gentleman invited Maureen out one last time and took her to a house that was already set up for a wedding and had a totally bizarre out of body experience and got married to Harry Brown, but the next thing to happen is that Maureen O'Hara is next on a ship going to America without Harry Brown, but when Charles Laughton heard about this marriage, he was very angry and furious with Maureen O'Hara, because he had signed her to a contract and did not want any negative publicity scandal about this marriage business being found out, but in later years because Maureen O'Hara had no more contact with Harry Brown, the marriage was annulled. As I informed you earlier that Daphne Du Maurier was really upset and disappointed with the film portrayal compared to her novel 'Jamaica Inn' as she felt the pirates were not violent and murderess thugs enough and was equally upset with Alfred Hitchcock on directing ‘JAMAICA INN,' and was very reluctant to have him direct the film 'Rebeca,' but on seeing the film 'Rebeca' Daphne felt that Hitchcock had stayed much more true towards the novel 'Rebeca.' Jeremy Arnold also informs us that ‘JAMAICA INN' did actually do very well at the box office and got mostly positive reviews, but in England the critics were very scathing that Alfred Hitchcock was moving to America, but for a film that is so maligned today, Jeremy Arnold went back to read the critics reviews again and concluded that they ranged from fair to very strong reviews and mentions the Variety critic review in 1939, and gave it great praise, but the New York Times in 1939 thought it was more a Charles Laughton film, that an Alfred Hitchcock film. And so we finally come to the end of the film and Jeremy Arnold gives his final conclusion in saying that with someone like Alfred Hitchcock, a minor film that is good, but not sensational, often gets lost and now hopes ‘JAMAICA INN' will get rescued from fate, and it demonstrates a level of craft, that shows Alfred Hitchcock to be ready for America and the machinery of Hollywood and 'Rebeca' will prove it and Jeremy Arnold thanks us for listening to his audio commentary and hopes you have enjoyed the experience of viewing this film like he did and bids you farewell. Well I for one second that opinion of Jeremy Arnold's impression of 'Jamaica Inn' and I can categorically say that Jeremy Arnold does such a professional audio commentary and definitely get a 5 star rating from me and is a must view experience, as Jeremy Arnold is so informative about the film ‘JAMAICA INN.'
PLUS: Beautiful printed reversible Blu-ray sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford. Dan Mumford is a freelance illustrator working out of Studio100 in central London, United Kingdom. Over the past 10 years, Dan Mumford has worked within the pop culture and music scene creating everything from album covers, branding and screen prints to new interpretations of classic film posters and albums. Clients include Disney, Sony, Iron Maiden, Wizards of the Coast, Icon Motoports, CBS and many many bands and record labels from around the world.
BONUS: Stunning First pressing only of a Special Collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Nathalie Morris. Nathalie Morris has been the Senior Curator of Special Collections at The BFI [British Film Institute] since 2008. Nathalie Morris’s research interests include Stoll Studios, the careers of Alfred Hitchcock, Powell and Pressburger and the promotion and marketing of Ealing Film Studios, British Women’s Cinema and Sherlock Holmes adaptations.
Finally, press material touts ‘JAMAICA INN’ is a "rediscovered classic," which I totally agree with, especially after seeing this brand new brilliant 4K restoration presentation, which gives you a whole new perspective of this Black-and-White film. One of the least well known and forgotten Alfred Hitchcock's classic films, and there are massive amounts of elements to enjoy here. Again with this brilliant 4K restoration that is a real stunning marvel, however, anyone who has seen previous shoddy inferior DVD home video releases of ‘JAMAICA INN’ will probably be totally amazed and staggered at the 100% stunning video image results. As it was Alfred Hitchcock's (temporary) swan song to England and ‘JAMAICA INN’ is bittersweet at best, but Alfred Hitchcock aficionados will no doubt be thrilled to include this Blu-ray outing in their collections and has now gone pride of place in my ever increasing Alfred Hitchcock Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso