Not Rated Dir: Alfred Hitchcock | Paramount | 1h 47min
Plot: What’s it about?
The names “Alfred Hitchcock”, “Cary Grant” and “Grace Kelly” are truly the names of immortals. Hollywood icons that were proof that “They don’t make ’em like they used to”. Hitchcock, who has gone down in history as perhaps the greatest director that has ever lived, had worked with both actors before. His teaming with Grant placed him in North by Northwest and Notorious while Grace Kelly had worked with him on Dial M for Murder and my favorite Hitchcock movie, Rear Window the year before. And as intriguing as To Catch a Thief is, it’s also a great romance movie, even placing highly with the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Passions (#46). This was also one of his more entertaining films from the man who could scare us, make us laugh and also cry. As with most of his films, this one is also a case of mistaken identity and I believe that Mr. Hitchcock had a laugh on all of us from time to time with his films. But enough about that…
As the opening credits start to roll, we see a male figure dressed in black, cut in with shots of a black cat, the thief is collecting quite a slew of precious (and expensive) diamonds. Yes, this is the cat burglar. John Robie (Cary Grant) now lives in the French Riveria and is a very famous ex-jewel thief. When word of this new wave of crimes hits, he and his former crew are the first suspected. The police are on him very quickly, but he manages to give them the slip and turns tail to his old cohorts. As it turns out, they’re not too happy with their reputation due to the new jewel thief. Working in a restaurant owned by Bertain (Charles Vanel). His advice is to help Robie escape the heat and to meet with someone from Lloyd’s of London (the world’s most prestigous insurance agency). Robie figures that the best way he can get he and his friends out of hot water is to catch this thief (cleverly enough, the title of the movie) during the act and therefore clear his name. Too easy, right? Of course! We then meet Frances (Grace Kelly) and her mother, two wealthy Americans who just happen to be carrying a LOT of jewels. Robie, thinking they’re prime targets, passes himself off as a businessman from Oregon and somehow works his way into Frances’ heart. However, the stakes are a lot higher when she finds out of his mysterious past.
To Catch a Thief shows us classic Alfred Hitchcock, we have chases (a la North by Northwest), romance, action and adventure. Granted, this is a tame pace compared to today’s action movies, but this has something they don’t…plot. The chemistry between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly is something that the silver screen didn’t have very often. Two of the better-looking humans…ever, on screen and entertaining us in the process. And, as mentioned before, this movie works on many levels. Truly just looking at Grace Kelly is enough to watch the film again and again. Ironically enough, this is where she met her future husband and therefore gave up acting. Take the good with the bad, I suppose. What I believe to be one of Hitchcock’s better movies (not that he had many, if any, bad ones), To Catch a Thief is sheer pleasure to watch. Recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Never let it be said that Hitchcock doesn’t sell on a disc format. There were two different versions of this film on regular DVD, the inaugural edition and then a “Special Collector’s Edition” a few years later. I remarked in my review of the latter that the image quality seemed identical, though I had some that disagreed with me. Yes, that’s been five or six years ago now so I’ve moved past it, but with this film’s Blu-ray debut let’s see if we can set the record straight, shall we? The film is presented in a 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer that looks simply divine. Bear in mind that the film is nearly sixty years old, though it’s hard to tell. Take a look at the definition on Cary Grant’s face and the porcelain-like appearance of the lovely Grace Kelly. There are some shots that are deliberately soft, but colors are bold and strong. Paris has rarely looked better from this time period. There’s a bit of jaggedness with some of the textures, but by and large this is a major improvement over the DVD releases. A top notch effort from Paramount.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack has its limitations, but by and large this is a very good-sounding track. We miss out on the depth that some of today’s modern films have in spades, but there’s a very interesting score to the film. Dialogue sounds good and I’m constantly reminded of how much Hollywood “leading men” have changed in the past sixty years. Grant’s vocals, while strong, seem a bit on the harsh side in a few instances. Grace Kelly’s baby soft voice sounds just fine. There are some ambient effects, though limited by the mix we don’t get a lot of depth. I really wasn’t expecting much from this soundtrack and after giving it a listen, it’s on par with the DVD releases from a few years back.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There was some controversy with the previous “Special Edition” of this film in that some of the special features from the previous DVD weren’t present. Thankfully, with this Blu-ray, that’s been taken care of. I had to do some literal digging, but I think we’ve got all of the features from both DVD’s on one Blu-ray. Let’s get started. First up is the commentary with Hitchcock historian Drew Casper. Casper knows his stuff and talks more along the technical merits of the shoot with some Hitchcock trivia intertwined. While not a must listen, it’s good to have this on the disc. “A Night with the Hitchcocks” is just that – the daughter and granddaughter of Alfred Hitchcock fielded questions from USC film students moderated by, you guessed it, Drew Casper. “Unacceptable Under the Code: Censorship in Hollywood” is a history of the production code and Hitchcock’s battles with the code (at the time To Catch a Thief was a very risqué movie). “The Making of To Catch a Thief” is the same feature that was present on both DVD’s, but nevertheless we get a look at the big picture from shooting, costume design, the script and so forth. “Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly” gives us a synopsis of the careers and their role in this movie together. “Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation” gives us a look at the different style, structure and an all-around crash course on one of the most famous directors in cinema. “Edith Head: The Paramount Years” is a retrospective that takes a look at one of the most famous costume designers who ever worked. We also get an interactive travelogue as you can pick out different locales with some voice-overs narration. Finally the galleries have been added back onto the disc and we get the original theatrical trailer as well.
- (1.85:1) Aspect Ratio
- Video Codec: AVC
- Audio: Dolby TrueHD
- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scene(s)
- Digital Copy
- 1 Disc Set