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To Catch a Thief Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 58 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted March 06 2012 - 03:16 PM

Do you ever wish you could discover a great film for the first time again; take yourself back in time and watch a classic or a favorite film as if you had never seen it before? Well, though I am slightly loathed to admit, I had never actually seen Alfred Hitchcock’s light and playful To Catch a Thief before.  What a treat! The expert thriller and mystery storytelling of one of cinema’s all-time giants with the iridescent beauty and strength of Grace Kelly bantering rhapsodically with the mature charms of the great Cary Grant  - now that is a combination impossible to resist.



To Catch a Thief

Studio: Paramount Pictures
Year: 1955
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 106 Minutes
Video: AVC MPEG-4 1080P High Definition 16X9

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, English Mono Dolby TrueHD, French Mono Dolby TrueHD, Spanish Mono Dolby TrueHD, Portuguese

English Audio Description

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Release Date: March 6, 2012

Review Date: March 6, 2012

“Not only did I enjoy that kiss last night, I was awed by its efficiency”

The Film

4/ 5

John Robie (Cary Grant) is a retired jewel thief, nicknamed ‘The Cat (to his chagrin), who now lives in considerable comfort on the warm and well-refined French Riviera. When a copycat burglar - who mimics his style perfectly - has the police breathing down his neck, and the townsfolk mightily displeased with his suspected actions, Robie initially seeks counsel with former members of his French Resistance gang at a restaurant, Bertani’s, owned by one of them. The police demand his cooperation but Robie takes great pains to avoid the suspecting constabulary, and is assisted in escape from their clutches by Danielle (Brigitte Aubur), daughter of another former Resistance member.

With the help of H.H. Hughson, Insurance Agent and friend of Bertani, Robie intends upon catching the copycat in the act so that he can clear his name and return to the pleasures and luxury of the life he was leading. With a list of the most expensive jewels on the Riviera – and their owners – he encounters the plucky Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her beautiful daughter Francie (Grace Kelly), and under the guise of an Oregon Industrialist, he sets about discovering the identity of the burglar. Francie, who is a blithe spirit herself and accustomed to playing off the pursuits of men, finds quite the match in John Noble and the two flirt and retort with endless enjoyment.

A mystery tale with witty quips and a plethora of playful banter, To Catch a Thief is most certainly the joyful lighter side of Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography – and a delicious experience to boot. The romantic pairing of Grant and Kelly, several years apart in age, gave rise to a delay in this film’s release, but audiences were enchanted by the playful tale, sly wit and gorgeous locations – made all the more inviting through the filming in VistaVision – one of only five films the great director filmed this way.

In the film, Cary Grant’s Robie character describes Grace Kelley’s Francie as ‘quietly attractive’, a muted compliment for her glamour if ever there were one, but his words are meant as much to prod as to tribute, and are indicative of what drives the irresistible charm of this feature – the almost balletic banter between these two stars. Consider this back and forth:

Francie: The man I want doesn't have a price.

John: (chuckling) Well, that eliminates me...

John: You're absolutely right. Give me a woman who knows her own mind.

Francie: No one would give you a woman like that. You have to capture her.

John: Any particular method?

Francie: Yes, but it's no good unless you discover it yourself

To Catch a Thief has at the core of its plot an interesting and compelling mystery (as Robie still ‘The Cat’ or is there really someone pulling off copycat thefts – and if so, who?), but that is merely the McGuffin; the repeat draw of this film are the sparks that fly in the dialogue and delivery – and it’s a joy to watch.

Though the cinematic world had embraced more method actors – a cause cited in Grant’s initial retirement from acting in 1953 – audiences clearly still found great appeal in the then 50 year old actor. This great actor of American cinema is perhaps one of the greatest British exports (Grant was born in Bristol, England), and his dialogue prowess and brilliantly timed expressions give his comedy great subtlety.

Hitchcock provides neat direction, providing a lush sense of surroundings, moving along the mystery of the thief, keeping it a guessing game, and giving the fine cast he assembled freedom to light up the screen. He included shots of a black cat to accompany the first few shots of John Robie so that we would connect the man with his reputation (and the title with which he is uncomfortable), and although the central story is not as intense a thriller as some of his more cited works, To Catch a Thief is classic Hitchcock in its own right.

The Video


Robert Burke’s Academy Award winning cinematography provides the film with a glowing sense of the glamorous locations and the rich history of the South of France. Framed at 1.78:1, Hitchcock crafts interesting shots throughout and this new Blu-ray from Paramount – the only Hitchcock title available to them – looks wonderful from opening to closing shot. To Catch a Thief is rich with fine details, excellent contrast, beautifully bright colors in so many of the day shots and distinguishable detail even in the lower lit night shots (especially those on roofs). I must say I am delighted with this release.

Robert Harris provides more technical details about the original film stock used in his ‘A Few Words About…™’ thread, including how this film was shot on an early version of Kodak’s 5248 emulsion, and he is, as am I, enthralled by how this film looks despite apparently not being a brand new re-mastering (since the special edition DVD release a few years ago).  

The Sound


Presented with both English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and Mono Dolby TrueHD (in addition to other language options), To Catch a Thief sounds very good indeed. Some interesting surround audio can be heard, particularly during the crowded markets and beaches, and during the entire presentation, dialogue is perfectly fine (and fitting of the era it was recorded). CODE: "The Cat"  The lovely score by Lyn Murray is carried evenly as well – with some musical phrases that will sound familiar to John Williams’s fans – and though the full capacity of your home theater equipment will not be taxed by this disc, you will be happy.

The Extras

3.5 / 5

Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper, Hitchcock Film Historian: Dr. Drew Casper serves a ‘Tour Guide’ through the feature though it does sound a little like a ‘book on tape’. As a fan of film and with a love of looking for deeper meaning in nuances and uncovering subtexts, I am not completely convinced by all of Dr. Casper’s assertions on meanings, but it is still an intriguing listen.  

A Night with the Hitchcocks (23:21): One evening in November 2008, Mary Stone – granddaughter of Alfred Hitchcock  and Pat Hitchcock, his daughter, answer questions from an interested audience at the University of Southern California moderated by Dr. Casper.                

Unacceptable Under the Code: Film Censorship in America (11:49): An all-too brief look at how Hitchcock maneuvered and confronted the ‘moral’ and ‘production’ codes that ran counter to the artistic freedoms great auteurs like Hitchcock sought.  

Writing and Casting To Catch A Thief (9:03): Hitchcock family and others discuss the delicious writing and casting of this film.

The Making of To Catch A Thief (16:53): A look at a number of the key elements in making this film both on location and at the Paramount lot. Good interviews and very interesting – but again, too short.

Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (6:12): A look at the two leads.

Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An Appreciation (7:32): A short retrospective on this picture and its wonderful mix of humor, romance and suspense.

Edith Head: The Paramount Years (13:43): An interesting look at Costume Designer Edith Head, a legend in her field, provided costumes for some of Paramount’s most revered films (from Wings to White Christmas).

If You Love To Catch A Thief, You’ll Love this Interactive Travelogue: Interactive feature allowing users to learn more about various locales.

Theatrical Trailer (HD)


§  Movie

§  Publicity

§  Visitors to the Set

§  Production

Final Thoughts

Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock and the French Riviera – need I say more? Hitchcock’s most European production is a delight from beginning to end. It is light-hearted, romantic and with fine performances from the two terrific leads and the very capable supporting players, one can find little fault with something this entertaining. Now more than 57 years since its release to warm acclaim and healthy box office business, To Catch a Thief delights on Blu-ray and can be easily recommended.

Overall (Not an average)


Neil Middlemiss

Kernersville, NC

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#2 of 58 benbess



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Posted March 06 2012 - 08:11 PM

Great review! Thanks. I have seen this one before--and this is the first time it hasn't been a letdown. I'm really enjoying it with my 10 year old daughter who laughed at both the flower battle and the first kiss. The high resolution of VistaVision and blu-ray make this a delight.

#3 of 58 dpippel



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Posted March 07 2012 - 05:02 AM

Thanks for the great review Neil. I watched this last night and agree with you on all points. If every Blu-ray that was taken from a re-master originally done for DVD looked this good, we'd have very little to complain about. Despite some of the shortcomings that Mr. Harris mentions I too was enthralled with the look of this transfer. Both Grace Kelly and the south of France are presented in absolutely luminous fashion.

Careful man, there's a beverage here!

#4 of 58 Osato



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Posted March 08 2012 - 06:21 AM

Thanks for the review! Hoping my copy ships from Amazon very soon! It's listed at $12.99 right now, if anyone is on the fence about picking it up! : )

#5 of 58 Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 09 2012 - 04:16 PM

We have a couple of copies of To Catch A Thief on Blu-ray to give away. To enter send an email to contest 'at' hometheaterforum.com (use @ in place of 'at') with the code in the subject line, and your user name, full name and address in the body of the email. The code can be found hidden in Neil's review above. Winners must have a US or Canadian shipping address, be over 18 and a member of HTF. The winner will be drawn at random from all emails received with the correct code word in the subject line. Contest runs through Wednesday 3/14. Good luck!

#6 of 58 Stan



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Posted March 09 2012 - 04:45 PM

This film is wonderful. People have tried, but they will never remake the quality and beauty of a Hitchcock film. This is one of his lighter films, but you can't help saying it, no matter how overused the phrase is, this is another one of his classics. His filming style, lighting, costumes, scenery, everything about it is perfect.. He is and always will remain my favorite director.

#7 of 58 Richard--W



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Posted March 09 2012 - 04:55 PM

The reviews are unanimously favorable and enthusiastic, everywhere. Evidently the Blu-ray has caused people to rediscover this wonderful film. I'll bet it's selling really well, too. See what a little restoration can do? Personally I find it as brilliant as Strangers On a Train or Rear Window or Vertigo, only differently, and on its' own terms.

#8 of 58 benbess



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Posted March 09 2012 - 06:13 PM

Yes, a wonderful film that helps make the sale for blu-ray. This 1955 film even looks better than quite a number of movies made in the last 10 years.

#9 of 58 Nelson Au

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Posted March 09 2012 - 08:09 PM

I just watched the blu ray. It's the first time on a new larger screen for me, previously, I've seen the earlier DVDs on a 50". This time I saw it on a 65. Wow! The image is so sharply focused! Deep focus in some shots and shallow in others. This is amazing, the first home video edition of this film I owned is a laserdisc from Paramount from the late 80's or early 90's. And I own every DVD, except the last one, but this blu ray is the most impressive looking! Some scenes look sharper then North By Northwest, at least it seems so. I refer to close-ups of the actors. I never noticed before the rustling of the bushes in the garden when Fousard was killed. Probably because the screen was bigger. The car chase scene while mostly rear projection had a much more visceral feel to it! And the opening scenes where the camera pans over Robie's garden and the helicopter shot of the landscape just look so lush and detailed in sharpness. Just brilliant! I don't think it's light Hitchcock. It's got every trademark Hitchcockian element. The wrong man accused, being chased, the mother, the cool blonde and the egg. Can't wait to see how Rear Window looks! And Vertigo.

#10 of 58 Cineman


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Posted March 10 2012 - 07:09 AM

The car chase scene while mostly rear projection had a much more visceral feel to it!

I believe Hitchcock's use of rear screen projection, particularly in his 1950-1964 golden era, is a subject worthy of deeper discussion than has generally been the case thanks to new insights and observations sure to be triggered by more of that era's films being released on Blu-ray. The slam on Hitch by other filmmakers and some critics was that he would resort to using the process purely out of convenience, a distaste for location shooting, even laziness. Some went further to suggest he'd turn to it because of a growing contempt for audiences later in his career. In that context, I have seen it predicted that Blu-rays of these masterpieces will show the seams and limitations of that era's rear screen projection to such negative effect that it'll do damage to Hitchcock's legacy. That, with the improved pq of Blu-ray, his movies just won't look as good or as convincing as we'd remembered them. But I disagree. I think the opposite is more likely. I'm among those who believe Hitchcock was too much the total filmmaker, too detail-oriented, too obsessed with producing an organic whole, to merely go to the rear screen process for the sake of convenience or, worse, out of disinterest. And in that context, I believe the Blu-ray process will provide perhaps the best opportunity ever to see, re-see, re-evaluate and judge what I believe were Hitchcock's judicious, often brilliant, uses of rear screen projection in order to create a better overall audience response than he would have gotten if he had merely shot every scene, every moment, everything to look "real". One example being your reaction to that chase scene, Nelson. I had the same reaction a few years back when I saw a theatrical screening of Marnie, easily Hitchcock's most notorious (ha) example of obvious rear screen projection "phoniness" (all 100% purposeful on Hitch's part, even daringly so, imo). In that case, as the case would also be with a Blu-ray presentation, the picture quality was so sharp and clear it was not only easier than ever to feel what Hitch wanted the audience to feel when a character was photographed within one of those obvious rear screen shots, but the emotional impact of Hitch's cutting to this insert shot, to a reaction shot, back to an insert shot, the powerful pure cinema of it, generated tremendous tension and suspense during that movie's key fox hunt/runaway horse scene that, without the better picture quality afforded by the theatrical presentation, had lost most of its impact when seen on ordinary home video. With better pq, it had become a truly visceral experience, to use the perfect word you used for that chase scene with rear projection throughout. I admit, it is a touchy subject because you're asking the viewer who might respond to an obvious rear screen projected shot with, "Oh, that looks so phony! Couldn't Hitchcock tell? Didn't Hitchcock care?" to reconsider, to open their mind to the distinct probability that Hitchcock knew what he was doing so well, had proven himself capable of accomplishing just about anything in terms of "realism" on film, that he was even willing to risk a moment here, a scene there, of his masterpiece films looking "bad" (to be overly simplistic) in order to enhance the effect of something more important about the movie, about the character, about the scene, even about us in the audience. It is a subject that is usually shrugged off as merely a convention of the time, that Hitchcock was saddled with the limitations of rear screen projection as all filmmakers of that day were, that, sadly, those limitations showed up in the final product. However, there was almost no other technological advancement in film history that Hitchcock didn't go beyond merely "adding" or being "saddled with" to definitively "exploiting", to testing it for it's ability to produce an emotional response rather than simply adding that technology to the movie because somebody had invented it and it was there. He didn't do that with sound, color, wider screens, more mobile cameras, or any other special effect. And I don't believe he merely used rear screen projection because it was there either.

#11 of 58 Larry Sutliff

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Posted March 10 2012 - 07:10 AM

What a beautiful Blu-ray. Grace Kelly and the French Riviera are wonderful to behold in high definition.

#12 of 58 bigshot



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Posted March 10 2012 - 08:09 AM

I think Hitchcock used rear projection because he was more interested in controlling the actors' performances than he was in what was going on behind them. You have a lot more options for crafting a performance on a soundstage than you do with the bustle and confusion of location shooting. It was a trade off for him and the characters won out over the background. Hitchcock's worst rear projection wasn't in the action scenes, it was in the glamor shots on the horse in Marnie and in conversations between characters in cars.

#13 of 58 Richard--W



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Posted March 10 2012 - 10:42 AM

I don't believe there is a trade-off in the decision. Actors can deliver just as well on location as they do in a studio. Perhaps Hitchcock was not a daredevil like John Frankenheimer, who put himself in the back seat with a hand-held camera in cars driving at actual high speeds. Hitchcock just found the character interaction part of car chase easier to control and safer to shoot in a studio. But he matches it to location shooting.

#14 of 58 Nelson Au

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Posted March 10 2012 - 10:51 AM

David, I think you got that I was reacting to the shot of John and Frances in the Sunbeam Alpine as Hitchcock had intended. The later part of the chase as the car was speeding and barely making each turn was what was really working to be visceral for me. The intercutting between them and the police car as they weaved left and right was always fun. I think during this viewing that the combination of the new higher resolution of the Blu Ray and the my new larger screen really made me feel immersed in the action. I didn't care about the rear projection, I was watching John's and Frances reactions and expressions. The weakest rear projection shot was the one when Frances apologizes to John at the cemetery. But it never bothered me. It will be interesting to see how Marnie looks when that is done up for blu ray! In regards to your comments David, I agree. He was crafting pure cinema. He wanted to generate the image he wanted you to see to impart the image he had in mind for the scene. As the audio commentary mentions in Notorious, he went all out there for the shot of Sebastian's house to get the point across of it's location and stature. I think if Hitchcock was making films today, he's be all over digital technology. So many films today are doing the exact same thing as Hitchcock did. People are shot in a car on greenscreen and the background is added later. The recent Star Wars films are mostly greenscreen. It should be fun to see how The Birds will turn out. I am thinking of the shot where Melanie is driving the Love birds out to Bodega Bay and she and the birds are leaning side to side as she carves those curves along the road. I might have another look at North by Northwest now when Roger is trying to drive and get away from the killers while drunk.

#15 of 58 benbess



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Posted March 10 2012 - 10:55 AM

I doubt we'll ever see Marnie on blu. But maybe I'm wrong about that...

#16 of 58 warnerbro


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Posted March 10 2012 - 01:09 PM

This Blu-ray yanked my eyes right out of the sockets. If only all movies could look like this. This is definitely a demo disk. Movies made today don't look this good. I wish they had made more movies in Vista-Vision. I have never seen more beautiful saturated colors. And never seen anything sharper. You can almost see every pore in the actors' skin. This film makes you feel like you're actually there living this. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly never looked better. Don't even think about it -- buy it.

#17 of 58 benbess



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Posted March 10 2012 - 01:32 PM

This Blu-ray yanked my eyes right out of the sockets. If only all movies could look like this. This is definitely a demo disk. Movies made today don't look this good. I wish they had made more movies in Vista-Vision. I have never seen more beautiful saturated colors. And never seen anything sharper. You can almost see every pore in the actors' skin. This film makes you feel like you're actually there living this. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly never looked better. Don't even think about it -- buy it.

I agree! There actually were dozens of good to great movies made in VistaVision--they just aren't on blu...:(

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Posted March 10 2012 - 02:15 PM

This Blu-ray yanked my eyes right out of the sockets. If only all movies could look like this. This is definitely a demo disk. Movies made today don't look this good. I wish they had made more movies in Vista-Vision. I have never seen more beautiful saturated colors. And never seen anything sharper. You can almost see every pore in the actors' skin. This film makes you feel like you're actually there living this. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly never looked better. Don't even think about it -- buy it.

Too bad you don't like it. :P I agree, it looks quite astounding. I've always admired "the look" of 1950s films: lighting, art direction, often Technicolor, etc. VistaVision takes it to another level.

#19 of 58 Nelson Au

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Posted March 10 2012 - 02:40 PM

Just looked up films on Vista Vision. Look forward to see how Vertigo will look. Plus I just ordered the blu ray of the Spencer Tracy film, The Mountain. I'm curious to see how that looks.

#20 of 58 Douglas Monce

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Posted March 10 2012 - 07:44 PM

Hitchcock used rear projection because he didn't like shooting on location at all. He liked the control of a studio. One must also consider that rear projection was so common in movies even up to the 70's, that audiences really didn't notice it. Particularly when it was VERY good as it is in most Hitchcock films. It wasn't until they started mounting cameras to cars in the late 60's that rear projection started to fade away. Even then it took 10 years or so before it was gone completely. Also if I remember correctly, Hitchcock was never happy with the rear projection plates for To Catch a Thief. My understanding is that they were obliged to use a French camera crew to get the shots, and they weren't up to Hitchcock's standards. Interestingly, now with Digital cinematography, and digital projection, the rear projection technique has come back with a vengeance. Because they can see in the camera exactly what they are getting, rear projection now can be so tuned to be so perfect as to be almost completely unnoticeable. And its MUCH cheaper than doing a green screen shot. Doug
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