Any anthology of Alfred Hitchcock films that dares to call itself "The Masterpiece Collection" but doesn't include the acclaimed filmmaker's 1946 "Notorious" (to my mind the most perfect Hitchcock film ever), but does include the 1972 "Frenzy" (good late Hitchcock, but no masterpiece), is a little bit suspect. Still, with 14 of the director's films -- including his reported favorite, "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943) -- stuffed into a burgundy velvet box, along with hours of making-of documentaries, trivia, trailers, photos, alternate endings and interviews, "Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection" (Rated from PG to R, Universal, $119.98) is a great overview of the mature work of suspense cinema's finest practitioner. Hitchcock fans may quibble -- where's "Rebecca"? "Dial M for Murder"? "North by Northwest"? -- but what "The Masterpiece Collection" has going for it is, if not depth, then variety. Beginning with 1942's black-and-white "Saboteur" and ending with the director's last film, "Family Plot" (1976), "The Masterpiece Collection" showcases Hitchcock's enormous range, from black comedy (1955's "The Trouble With Harry") to straight-up horror (1963's "The Birds") to complex dramas of psycho-sexual pathology (1948's "Rope," 1960's "Psycho" and 1964's "Marnie"). Other titles include "Rear Window" (1954); "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956), Hitchcock's second version, this one starring Jimmy Stewart; "Vertigo (1958); "Torn Curtain" (1966); and "Topaz" (1969).
If that's not enough, Universal has also just come out with a useful companion to this collection: "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season One" (Unrated, $39.98), a compilation of all 39 episodes from the debut 1955-56 season of the Hitchcock-produced TV series that was a precursor to such dramas as "The Twilight Zone." The most famous of the show's episodes, "Lamb to the Slaughter," in which a woman who has bludgeoned her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb serves the murder weapon to the investigating officers, is not included -- that one didn't air until 1958 -- but there are some wonderfully creepy stories here, including a take on "The Lady Vanishes" called "Into Thin Air" and starring Hitchcock's daughter Pat.
A little skimpy on bonus features, the set offers only a short documentary reminiscence about the series, which ran for 359 episodes, 17 of which Hitchcock himself directed. The collection's best extras are actually contained in the shows themselves, all of which featured Hitchcock doing wry, and often ghoulish, introductions and closing monologues.
Completists would do well to also keep an eye out for the special-edition DVD of Hitchcock's 1944 "Lifeboat" (Unrated, Fox, $19.98), coming out Oct. 18. And if you simply can't live without "Notorious" -- and who could blame you? -- you might want to rent the extras-packed version (Unrated, Criterion) that came out in 2001.