Under Capricorn is Alfred Hitchcock's most obscure commercial film of the sound era -- understandable since, as a Technicolor film and a historical drama set in Australia in 1831, it doesn't even look like a Hitchcock movie. And, in fact, for all of their lack of suspense or tension, the first 16 minutes of the film could have been shot by almost anybody. On the plus side, it has been very nicely transferred and extremely well preserved, with only minor blemishes showing up intermittently: Just short of 16 minutes in, there's a short stream of small black spots on the right side of the screen and, at 64 minutes in, the print shows some wear, but those are the only real signs of age or wear. The disc and movie alike are singularly un-Hitchcockian in feel until the action gets us to the Flusky estate at 17 minutes in; then the Hitchcock ten-minute takes (à la Rope) start in motion, the colors all deepen, and the lighting becomes almost like a living, breathing element of the movie. The relationship between the visual material and dialogue tightens considerably from there on, along with the music score and its role within the film. The DVD is a considerable improvement over the old laserdisc edition and it turns the director's use of the ten-minute take into something downright poetic, in ways that the device never achieved in Rope. It is a lot like watching a ballet, and given the fact that the movie is almost never shown theatrically, this is about as fine a presentation as any of us are likely ever to have of it. The 24 chapters are reasonably generous for a 117-minute movie, but it would have been interesting to have seen the original trailer, as well, to see how Warner Bros. (the original distributor) sold the movie; and the movie's origins are probably worth a short documentary account, much as the Universal Hitchcock films are. But as it is, this is still a disc that will deliver more than the movie's reputation supposedly promises.Returning to his old Elstree Studios headquarters in England, Alfred Hitchcock did his best with Hume Cronyn's adaptation of the James Bridie novel Under Capricorn. Costume drama was never Hitchcock's forte, as proven by his disappointing Jamaica Inn (1939), but Capricorn does have its moments. Set in Australia in the early 19th century, the film concerns the tribulations of Lady Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman), who was driven out of her home in disgrace after eloping with unkempt stableman Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten). Accused of the murder of Henrietta's brother, Flusky has been transported to Australia, where he starts life anew as a prosperous businessman, even while his wife descends further and further into alcoholism and self-hatred. When her cousin Charles Adare (Michael Wilding) comes to visit, Henrietta falls in love with him; she also confides that it was she, and not Flusky, who was responsible for her brother's death. The operatic climax finds Lady Henrietta doing the "right thing" at the cost of her own happiness. At times ponderously directed, the film comes explosively to life whenever Margaret Leighton, cast as Lady Henrietta's spiteful housekeeper, dominates the scene. On a technical level, Under Capricorn is distinguished by the same "ten-minute takes" that Hitchcock had utilized in Rope; particularly effective is an uninterrupted dialogue sequence, played against the backdrop of a spectacular Technicolor sunset (courtesy cinematographer Jack Cardiff).