To Catch a Thief
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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”
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.
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).
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.
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)
§ Visitors to the Set
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)