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Paramount Home Video presents
To Catch a Thief (SE) (1955)

"You don't have to spend every day of your life proving your honesty, but I do."
- John Robie (Cary Grant)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: May 07, 2007

Stars: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly
Other Stars: Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:46m:23s
Release Date: May 08, 2007
UPC: 097361207346
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A BB-C B-

DVD Review

Come to this movie with too many expectations, and you're likely to be disappointed, especially when you look at the talent level involved: not just Alfred Hitchcock and his leading man of choice, Cary Grant, but also Grace Kelly at her most ravishing, a screenplay by the incomparable John Michael Hayes (his credits include Rear Window), costumes by Edith Head, and some of the most spectacular locations imaginable. The movie itself is undeniably if modestly entertaining, but in truth it doesn't offer a whole lot of the crucial aspect promised in the director's sobriquet as the Master of Suspense. But heavens, when you've got this much style to burn and you're in the south of France, have another cocktail, darling, and everything will be fine.

Grant stars as John Robie, once a notorious cat burglar, who has hung up the black mask and now lives the life of a country gentleman—he paid his debt to society with some time in the stir and fighting for the French resistance, and now he is content to live off the fruits of his felonious labors. His reverie in his chalet is disturbed, however, by a couple of recent jewel thefts—Robie protests his innocence, but whoever is responsible has his old M.O. down to a tee. He of course is the first one that the French authorities wish to question, and he's eager to clear his good name—Robie teams up with a fuddy duddy British insurance man, who hopes that Robie can help prevent these robberies, thus saving the home office in London more than a few pounds.

Nobody trusts poor Robie, particularly not his old comrades, most of whom staff up the kitchen at a local hotel—when your livelihood is pampering the very rich, having a jewel thief prowling about is bad for business. Robie spots his doppelganger's next likely mark: an American widow taking the tour with her spectacularly beautiful and jewel-encrusted daughter, Francie.

Francie couldn't be played by anyone other than Kelly, and it's clear that Hitch and the camera are absolutely head over heels for her—she does look spectacularly beautiful, even if she doesn't get a whole lot to do. Francie is supposed to have a madcap quality to her, which is fine; but it's hard to watch the sequence in which she drives maniacally along the winding hilly roads and not get a sickening twinge when recalling how Princess Grace met her own untimely demise. The script is a little late in introducing her, as well, but when you look as good as that, all is forgiven.

The film hopes that we'll wonder who's setting up Robie, or if he in fact has gone back to his old ways; but there's not a lot of juice in that, and you almost get the sense that Hitch's heart isn't in it. (Instead, he tosses in many, many shots of cats slinking around whenever the subject of cat burglary comes up. Get it? Intrigo, we're ready for your close-up.) And the story comes to its apex at—horrors—a costume party, at which no one seems to be having very much fun. Unlike other Hitchcock pictures, it doesn't have the kind of psychological resonance that holds up well upon re-viewing—admittedly it's setting an absurdly high standard to expect every one of the director's films to be on the level of Vertigo, and so if this one is more hat than cattle, it's quite a fetching chapeau indeed.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Matte shots fare especially poorly in this transfer, and the colors lack vibrancy; it's not a horror of a transfer, but it's hardly a paradigmatic one, either.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrenchyes
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: There are a handful of ghastly sync problems with the audio on this DVD; it's not really much of a transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter Bogdanovich and Laurent Bouzereau
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras package on this special edition re-release are in fact almost identical to those on its original DVD release—the one principal addition is a commentary track, featuring Peter Bogdanovich, joined by DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau. There aren't many blank patches, which is kind of a relief; but then, they don't have a whole lot to say, either, beyond some basic observations about Hitch, Grant, location shooting, and VistaVision. Bogdanovich trots out his shopworn imitations, which is his prerogative, and perhaps inevitable; but it's clear that these two have done basically no preparation for this track, and hadn't even seen the movie in a while. (They ask one another if particular shots were done on location or in the studio, and neither has an answer; they often get this picture confused with other Hitchcock films, and can't remember what's in here and what isn't.)

Otherwise, the package is much the same, featuring the director's daughter, Pat Hitchcock O'Donnell, and his granddaughter, Mary Stone. Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief (09m:04s) also includes film historian Steven De Rosa on the evolution of the story, and The Making of To Catch a Thief (16m:53s) brings location manager Doc Erickson to the party. Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation (07m:32s) is more of a family reminiscence, and Edith Head: The Paramount Years (13m:43s) may elicit a feeling of dé já vu, as it has appeared not only on the previous release of this title, but on Sunset Boulevard and Roman Holiday.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Hitchcock's high style holds sway here, as do his two leading actors—it's not as meaty a treat as some of the director's other pictures, but it's got more panache than should even be allowed in a dozen movies. This special edition is substantially similar to the title's first DVD release, so if you've already got that one in your collection, an upgrade is probably unnecessary.

 


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