Jamaica Inn (1939)

Jamaica Inn (1939), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

First review

A tale of wreckers on the Cornwall coast: men who lure ships onto the rocks, murder the crew and plunder the cargo. It's a familiar setting in Regency romances.

It opens with an exciting storm and shipwreck. The movie takes place almost entirely at night and the gloomy tumbledown stone buildings are good. The main attractions are Maureen O'Hara (age 19) in her first film role as a fiery Irish lass, and Charles Laughton who hams it up without any restraint. He's the squire and local magistrate who is secretly the head of the gang. At first he seems strangely mannered, then very eccentric, but finally just nuts.

Otherwise it is neither funny enough nor serious enough to be of much interest. The plot doesn't move very forcefully. A police spy has infiltrated the gang and we have his discovery, people being tied up, escape, recapture, more tying up, more escape, etc.

It was Hitchcock's last British picture and he was never happy with it. His mind was probably on his move to Hollywood.

From a book by Daphne Du Maurier, who also wrote the novels for Rebecca (1940) and The Birds (1963). I recall from a Hitchcock biography that it was more or less an accident that he made films from three of her books. They weren't friends and didn't work together.

Second review

New thumbnails from the excellent Cohen Media Blu-ray.

Previous home video editions were pretty sad. The new disc doesn't make it a better movie, but I did enjoy rewatching it just for the image upgrade.

This is a reminder of how popular Regency period adventures have been in movies: even Hitchcock did one! See: Jane Austen, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Napoleonic Wars with Hornblower, Sharpe, Aubrey–Maturin, etc. And tons of women's romance paperbacks.

Also, this is a an example of the remarkable work in film restoration these days. From a press release by Cohen quoted at Blu-ray.com:


This is a 4K restoration via a collaboration between Cohen Film Collection and the BFI. RRsat and Finishing Post Productions Ltd were tasked with achieving the best possible restoration at the highest suitable data rate. The original nitrate negatives were sourced from the BFI. These elements were then scanned at 4K resolution by RRsat utilising the ArriScan to create a DPX file sequence. The film was suffering from shrinkage and warping and as such had to be scanned without pin registration as the perforations would not allow.

Once scanned, the 4K sequence required huge amounts of stabilisation to combat the shrinkage. Image warping also needed to be electronically pinned as the images were effectively bouncing around the screen. The nature of these issues required multiple software fixes on a frame by frame basis before the dirt and scratch removal could begin. The density within the image also fluctuated creating a pulsing effect which again had to be mapped and removed digitally.

Once these pre-fix stages were complete we moved into traditional restoration utilising multiple software packages including PFClean, AfterFX, MTI and Dark Energy to treat the dirt and scratches. Grain treatment was applied with a mind to keeping as close to the original cinematic feel to the film.

The audio required significant restoration. Our senior technician, Nitin, removed hiss, crackle and pops as well as dramatically improving the "noise" from the original tracks. The audio was digitised and then treated in the software domain in a completely non-destructive process.

Jamaica Inn was Alfred Hitchcock's last film to be made in the UK and as such we spared no effort in creating the highest quality master which our award winning colourist Ray King, graded on the DaVinci Resolve system, producing the fantastic results you can see on screen. Finishing Post Productions attended the grade and play out to ensure the theatrical integrity of the project.

Once approved the grade was rendered in to the sequence and transcoded into a 4k ProRes for DCP creation.

"The results here are by and large stupendous...".