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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

"Every crime has a personality." 
- Vicki (Faye Dunaway)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: November 11, 2005

Stars: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway
Other Stars: Jack Weston, Yaphet Kotto
Director: Norman Jewison

MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 01h:42m:13s
Release Date: May 17, 2005
UPC: 027616926333
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+B-B- B-

DVD Review

Even in a plaid three-piece suit cut too tight, with wide lapels and a purple tie, Steve McQueen radiated cool, and he and this movie, in which he plays the title character, have plenty of cool to spare. Director Norman Jewison assembled first-rate talent on both sides of the camera, and the company made a taut and terrifically entertaining crime thriller. It's certainly very much of its time, and, as so many movies in this genre do, it starts more promisingly than it finishes—but it's a sturdy, tense piece of work, in the first tier of caper movies.

McQueen's Thomas Crown is a state-of-the-art industrialist, circa 1968—his office hums with teletype machines and that far-out new invention, digital clocks, as McQueen buys low and sells high. (Just what he buys and sells is beside the point.) He is, I'm proud to relate, a Dartmouth man, ever on the lookout for something to give him a thrill, be it a knockout girlfriend, a fast car or plane, or something more dangerous still, flouting conventions and the law not principally for monetary gain, but for the adrenaline rush. The big event here is a bank heist, for which Crown is the unseen genius, assembling a band of thieves unknown to one another, and who can't identify Crown personally. (Among them are a sweaty Jack Weston and a nervous Yaphet Kotto.) They come away with a big stash—$2.6 million—in small bills, untraceable. The bank is funny, though, and wants to get its money back.

To that end, the insurance company brings in Vicki, world-class insurance investigator—she works on commission, so will only receive her sizable paycheck if she produces the bad guys. The best part of the movie, in many respects, is the set-up and the heist—Quentin Tarantino must have watched this one a couple of dozen times, really, because Jewison really gets it right. Vicki is played by Faye Dunaway, in the first film she made after Bonnie and Clyde, and she and McQueen are well matched—the cat and mouse between them is almost as good as the heist. Since she's not a cop, she's got no worries about things like search warrants and Miranda rights, allowing her to stick it to Crown, all the while smiling in her miniskirts and white lipstick.

There's the inevitable romance between them, and it's a little dull, not nearly as glib and peppy as when they're going toe to toe—they play chess as foreplay, for instance, and the come-hither look in Dunaway's eyes as she strokes her bishop is comical in its obviousness. They race around a little too much in Crown's dune buggy in the second half, but the film brims with great artifacts of the time—everyone smokes, the men are among the last to wear fedoras, McQueen lounges around the house in an orange double-breasted terrycloth bathrobe. Much of the panache comes from Alan R. Trustman's clever script, but just as important to the look and feel are Haskell Wexler, the fine cinematographer; and Hal Ashby, a co-editor and co-producer, who would go on to direct terrific movies like Being There and Shampoo. If you've only heard of this movie because of the remake, believe me, it's worth seeking out the genuine article.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesyes


Image Transfer Review: Jewison frequently uses a montage effect with six or more small images composed into one on the screen; it's only one reason among many why you'll want to watch this in its original aspect ratio, and not butchered by being panned and scanned. Colors are faded; the transfer is adequate.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Dynamics are spotty, and McQueen is occasionally muffled—keep your finger on the remote to go back a few frames as necessary. Also, perhaps the thing you'll take away most from the movie is the insistently hummable song that became its trademark, The Windmills of Your Mind. Watch this, and for days on end join me in not being able to shake the song, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Norman Jewison
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Director Norman Jewison has many fond memories of the picture, and he shares them genially on the commentary track. This is the first film he made after the success of In the Heat of the Night; he talks at length here about being inspired by Hitchcock, and on the particular difficulties of shooting the movie on location in Boston. He's worth a listen.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Smart and stylish, with two great lead performances, strong technical values, a sturdily crafted story, and a song that will be in your head for days.

 


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