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Under Capricorn

Ingrid Bergman , Joseph Cotten , Alfred Hitchcock    Unrated   DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Screen legends Ingrid Bergman (Notorious) and Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane) star in this spellbinding melodrama from the screen's Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock! Banished for murder to Australia, Sam Flusky (Cotton) takes his victim's troubled sister, Henrietta (Bergman), as his wife. The arrival of a new governor also brings Henrietta's old friend, Adare (Michael Wilding), who tries to help her conquer the demons plaguing her life. But something mysterious is afoot; is Henrietta going insane, or is there a sinister plot at work? A gripping, atmospheric yarn in the style of Rebecca and Gaslight, this sumptuous production features some of Hitchcock's most audacious visual tricks and is now presented on DVD in a rich new Technicolor digital transfer!


With the long-take experiment of Rope still fresh in his mind, Alfred Hitchcock turned his attention to romantic melodrama: Under Capricorn, a novel of 1830s Australia. Having little of the usual suspense to rely on, Hitchcock used the elegant long-take method to draw out Ingrid Bergman's harrowing performance. As a fallen aristocrat who married a former stable boy (Joseph Cotten) and moved Down Under, Bergman gives a fine portrayal of a woman hemmed in by a sour marriage and a guilty secret. The actress also felt hemmed in by Hitch's elaborate camera movements; she hated them. This expensive picture flopped on its first release, but it has a hypnotic flow despite a tendency toward talkiness. Hitchcock fans will recognize, beyond the details of plot, a couple of the director's key motifs: the jaundiced view of marriage, and the anxieties underlying social status. And, of course, the worship of an actress. --Robert Horton

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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock stretches with mixed success July 25 2003
A period piece directed by Hitchcock? Yes, it is a surprise. It wasn't the first though It must have surprised Hitch as well. While produced by his own company (Transatlantic Pictures), Under Capricorn would seem a natural choice for David O Selznick as producer but all wrong for Hitchcock as director. While Under Capricorn is flawed, it's got a number of strengths chiefly the performance by Ingrid Bergman and the unusual experiment begun in Rope with long takes. Under Capricorn doesn't rely on as many gimmicks as Rope did and, while Joseph Cotton may seem odd for his role (Burt Lancaster was Hitchcock's original choice), he does a solid job in the role. Although the Irish accent perpetually eludes the three principal actors, it's no worse than watching a film set in, say, Germany with actors attempting German accents while speaking English.
Yes, the material might seem appropriate for Hitch given the themes explored but this romantic melodrama was really quite a stretch for him as a director. The experience here certainly made his later works richer (such as Vertigo) but, on the whole, Under Capricorn was clearly a learning experience for Hitch.
The performances are grand and as florid as one might expect given the material. The screenplay by James Bridie (with considerable rewriting by Hume Cronyn)leaves Hitch in a lifeboat without oars; Hitch pretty much goes nowhere over the course of the film's 116 minutes. Unfortunately, this expensive miscalculation would do in Hitch's Transatlantic films (Rope was the first Transatlantic production and, despite some obvious flaws, is a much better film).
Still, despite its considerable flaws, Under Capricorn is a worthy experiment and worth a look from Hitchcock fans. The transfer is solid although not as rich as I expected and the extras are pretty slim (especially compared to Rope and Shadow of a Doubt).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock's caution backfired during shooting July 15 2003
By Eva25at
The former reviewer is right, of course: UNDER CAPRICORN was not produced by Selznick, as I wrote in my first comment, but by Hitchcock himself. I was led to this error because the sight of Margaret Leighton and Joseph Cotten in those costumes and on those sets reminded me so mucn of GONE WITH THE WIND and DUEL IN THE SUN.
The film is watchable, no question. There is no such thing as an "unwatchable" Hitchcock film. The cinematography (By Jack Cardiff, who also made THE RED SHOES and BLACK NARCISSUS) is attractive and Ingrid Bergman is very moving, especially in the scene where she pulls herself together and makes an attempt to run the household. The kitchen-maids, used to Leighton's strict rule, disobey, and Bergman realizes that she has no authority in her own house. Leighton strides to Bergman's bedroom and systematically exposes her and her bottles in front of her guests. But this is probably the only good scene in the entire film.
The fact that Hitchcock produced it himself, explains much of the film's shortcomings: He wanted to play it safe, because his own money was at stake. UNDER CAPRICORN must have looked terrific on paper, but his caution during shooting robbed the story of everything that must have attracted him in the first place. And he fails with one of the most potent subjects: mesalliance. A society lady marries her stable-boy, suffers under the loss of her social position and drowns her sorrows in the bottle. An interesting premise, but Hitchcock fails completely to elucidate their complex relationship. Hasn't Cotten every reason to be depressed since his wife considers him so obviously as her punishment? And what would have happened after all those years of his (not so selfless) self-sacrifice, if Bergman had refused to meet her part of the deal?
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4.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten gem comes to DVD!! May 16 2003
First off my thanks to Image for bringing this little seen Hitchcock film to DVD. I haven't seen the DVD yet so I don't know how the color hues of this late 40's film have held up. Image was a high quality Laserdisc producer and they have carried on with DVD. They have produced fifty titles for Universal and many more both for other studios and on their own. While light on extras the price, at least lately, is always fair for the product offered. Something I can't say of every DVD producer out there. "Under Capricorn" was Ingrid Bergman's last film for Hitchcock. Shot in color it does feature a Hitchcock cameo appearance in a crowd. While it does not have the flash of some of his later films, it has some moody and creepy moments as Bergman is being haunted by a jealous housekeeper. Also notable is Joseph Cotten who gives his usual excellent performance along with a nice turn by Michael Wilding. As the 1993 Sterling Video VHS release has been out of print for some time I can't wait to see this DVD. Thanks, CAL
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3.0 out of 5 stars eva25at is ignorant May 16 2003
By A Customer
...First of all this is NOT a Selznic picture. Hitchcock was free from his contract with selznic after "The Paradine Case." Hitchcock produced this under his own Transatlantic Productions.
Selznic didn't have the remotest thing to do with this movie! No this isn't as good as most Hitchcock movies but it is entertaining.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service & product Feb. 1 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Excellent sur toute la ligne. Produit de première qualité et expédié rapidement !
Exactement comme promis et selon la réputation du fournisseur.
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