Lifeboat: Special Edition

Lifeboat: Special Edition (1944)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Hume Cronyn
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Photo Gallery, Trailer

Having never seen "Lifeboat, " yet considering myself an Alfred Hitchcock fan, I decided that I had better get my act together and see this film once and for all. Considering that "Lifeboat" was nominated for three Academy Awards and is now available as a nicely presented special edition from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, I decided to spend an evening watching a presentation from one of cinemas most celebrated filmmakers.

"Lifeboat," written by John Steinbeck, is a character-driven story that is masterfully directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who weaves a terrific and timeless tale that delves into the human psyche. Centering on a group of individuals trapped in a lifeboat on the open sea, after their cruise ship had been torpedoed by a Nazi U-Boat during World War II. The survivors on board make up an average sampling of society, from wealthy and posh to common blue collar individuals, even a former thief, who all share the common goal of basic survival. Shortly after the group gathers into the lifeboat, they are joined by an unknown individual who appears at the side of the boat seeking rescue. Once the stranger is welcomed aboard, he is quickly identified as none other than the captain of the Nazi U-Boat that sunk their cruise ship. Confrontations between class and race all play a factor as the survivors endure mental and physical strains of having limited food and water supply and dealing with the elements of the open sea, while trying to decide if they can trust the former member of the U-Boat to utilize his seaworthiness to lead them to safety and not an enemy supply ship.

With his production of "Lifeboat", Hitchcock let it be known that he was pro-ally that caused some to simply dismiss this film as pure allied propaganda, which in my opinion was a mistake. If you are used to Hitchcock's signature dramas and thriller based stories, "Lifeboat" will give you a taste of the wartime era films that he produced, when the world was a different place altogether.

Twentieth Century Fox presents this Hitchcock classic in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 or full frame. The image suffers from sporadic negative damage that appears in the form of water spots on the final presentation, with minor scratches and dust visible through some scenes. Slight grain is evident, which is simply a characteristic of the original source material. Overall contrast and black levels are acceptable, but you really have to take the image quality for what it is, considering that the original negative is simply a victim of age and not having the luxury of being completely restored for this DVD. I urge film fans to overlook the lesser quality of this presentation, as "Lifeboat" is a real treasure of a film to finally have available on our favorite digital format.

The soundtrack is available as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo or 1.0 mono mix. Dialogue appears quite natural in reproduction throughout the presentation and the overall mix is appropriately suited to the visual content on display.

The extras section features a good 20 minute behind-the-scenes documentary titled "The Making of Lifeboat: The Theater of War" that includes an interview with Pat Hitchcock O'Connell (daughter of Alfred Hitchcock). During the documentary, you will learn how Hitchcock had to overcome the challenge of incorporating his trademark cameo into a film that takes place in a lifeboat surrounded by water, even considering a scene that would have him float by as a corpse! A full feature-length audio commentary from film professor Drew Casper, a nicely presented still photo gallery and theatrical trailer top of this special edition of "Lifeboat".