Jamaica Inn Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Anamorphic, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: May 12, 2015
  • Run Time: 98 minutes


              Jamaica Inn is one of those films remembered for all of the wrong reason, famous for giving Alfred Hitchcock such an unpleasant experience that it was his last film directed in England before beginning his illustrious career in Hollywood. The casting of Charles Laughton meant that Hitchcock lost much of his beloved freedom, and the film lacks his signature style. He does not even offer himself a cameo. And yet, even at his unhappiest there is still talent to be seen in some of Hitchcock’s climactic moments of suspense. He was the master, indeed. This paired with a typically theatrical performance from Laughton makes Jamaica Inn worth remembering, and occasionally revisiting.


            Despite his distasteful experience on-set, Hitchcock clearly had no issue with the source material. Jamaica Inn is based on a Daphne Du Maurier novel, and he would return to the author’s work again with Rebecca and The Birds. This narrative involves a young woman named Mary (Maureen O’Hara in her first big role), who travels to a seaside inn near Cornwall in the early 1800s to visit her aunt, only to discover her kin to be involved in the purposeful shipwrecking and pillaging of passing ships. Mary’s only ally is a member of the gang accused of withholding loot, and the two turn to the local squire (Laughton) for help, unaware that he is secret patron to the whole murderous gang.


            O’Hara is instantly engaging, playing a perfect Hitchock heroine in a non-typical Hitchcock film. The other half (or more) is Laughton’s performance, which is admittedly bloated due to the size of his celebrity in England at the time. Personally, I don’t find this to be his best performance. It feels hammy, even for Laughton’s typically over-the-top style. But even with all of these problems, there is brilliance in all of the season sequences: the shipwreck, the seaside escape, and the climactic Cliffside struggle.


            The film has been restored in 4K in collaboration with the British Film Institute from an archival picture negative. There are dozens of copies and versions of this film available on cheap DVDs, but none will look as magnificent as this high definition restoration. The special features include a feature-length archival commentary track, alone with a new video essay by author Donald Spoto and a 2014 re-release trailer. The package also includes a booklet with cast/crew listings and some great promotional photography.


    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10

    Historical Significance:  7/10

    Special Features: 7/10

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