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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Trouble with Harry
The Trouble with Harry
Universal // PG // June 20, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phil Bacharach | posted July 4, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

It might be a testament to how far black comedy has come -- or, perhaps more accurately, how low it has gone -- that Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry seems so quaint today. The central conceit in this modest 1956 picture, in that a dead body is carted around so much as to become a downright nuisance, has been done to (pardon the pun) death over the years, with results ranging from the abysmal (Weekend at Bernie's) to the sublime (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada). While The Trouble with Harry is still a charming little movie, its once-macabre humor lost its fangs long ago.

Still, the picture has considerable appeal. Set in a small town in Vermont, the story begins when a local old man of the sea, Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), stumbles across a dead man on the top of a hill. Since the captain has been out shooting rabbits, he naturally assumes that one of his stray bullets must have felled the stranger.

He learns that the freshly deceased is Harry Worp, the estranged husband of a kooky young woman in town named Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine in her big-screen debut). Since Mrs. Rogers seems only too happy that Harry is dead, Captain Wiles assumes he will have no trouble from her. Still, the veteran seafarer would rather avoid the unpleasantness of criminal charges. He enlists the help of a free-spirited local artist, Sam Marlowe (an unlikely role for the ironing-board rigidity of John Forsythe) to bury the troublesome body.

But that's the trouble with Harry: He won't stay buried. Or, rather, the townspeople won't let him stay buried. As Sam and Jennifer quickly strike up a romance and Captain Wiles finds himself drawn to spinster Ivey Gravely (Mildred Natwick), various incidents of the past 24 hours are revealed that seemingly give everyone a vested interest in concealing Harry's demise.

Buoyed by jaw-dropping scenes of a Vermont autumn (is the place really that beautiful?), The Trouble with Harry is stagy, droll fun that is more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. This is the kind of picture in which half the humor stems from characters continually understating the seriousness of what is unfolding onscreen. When Miss Gravely recounts being attacked and her very severe reaction, she notes, "I was annoyed … I don't think I've ever been so annoyed." John Michael Hayes' screenplay spills over with wit -- but it is so light that it threatens to blow away with the movie's ubiquitous autumn leaves.

The DVD

The Video:

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this is a magnificent transfer. Aside from very minor grain in one or two scenes, The Trouble with Harry's picture quality is superb, with realistic skin tones and dazzling autumnal colors that practically burst through the screen. Robert Burks' cinematography truly shines here.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital 2.0 is clear and easily understandable -- and that's really all you need for a dialogue-driven movie, isn't it? Thankfully, the polished quality is a fitting showcase for Bernard Hermann's outstanding music score, his first for Hitchcock.

Audio tracks are available in English and Spanish, with subtitles available in English and French.

Extras:

A 32-minute featurette by Laurent Bouzereau, The Trouble with Harry Isn't Over is an interesting collection of anecdotes from John Forsythe, John Michael Hayes, Pat Hitchcock O'Connell (Hitch's daughter) and Trouble with Harry associate producer Herbert Coleman. Particularly amusing is Coleman's recollection of him and Hitchcock meeting a bedraggled Shirley MacLaine at the St. Regis Hotel. A sizable portion of the documentary is rightly devoted to music composer, and frequent Hitchcock collaborator, Bernard Hermann.

Additional extras include production photographs, production notes and a theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts:

A commercial dud upon its theatrical release, The Trouble with Harry has gained a dedicated and sizable cult following over the decades. Fans of the movie and Hitchcock aficionados especially will love this beautiful print and the accompanying documentary.

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