DVD Review HTF REVIEW: To Catch A Thief

JustinCleveland

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Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: May 8, 2007
Run Time: 106 minutes

Littered with innuendo and featuring a story that can at best be called “Hitchcock-Lite,” “To Catch a Thief” is a movie about romance and intrigue, a mystery that is overshadowed by the romance between the stately Carey Grant, a reformed thief, and Grace Kelly, a wealthy bachelorette who is traveling the world with her mother. While the performances are not particularly convincing, it is Hitchcock’s skill as a director and editor that produces an enjoyable film.

The story tracks “The Cat,” John Robie, an American who, after being stranded in France as a youth, turned to a life of crime to survive. He was sprung from prison with a group of more violent criminals during the Nazi occupation of France, and granted a pardon for his service in the underground rebellion. Although Robie claims to walk the straight and narrow, when a copycat starts hitting France’s wealthiest, Robie becomes the prime suspect and is forced to dodge the police to find the true thief to clear his name. Along the way he strikes up an alliance with an insurance man with a vested interest in keeping the gems safe (John Williams) and stakes out a wealthy dowager (Jessie Royce Landis), eventually falling for her daughter.

The performances in “To Catch a Thief” can be at best described as uninspired. Grant’s natural, affable charm shines through as always, but his character doesn’t seem anything more than the actor prancing about in French-style clothing. Grace Kelly is sensual and it is easy to see how Robie could fall in love with her. In truth, the chemistry between the two leads is the film’s saving grace, as the ending is telegraphed from the movie’s opening frames.

Criticisms aside, even mediocre Hitchcock is better than most new releases. This was my first time seeing “To Catch a Thief” and I can easily say I enjoyed it and can recommend it to anyone looking for light entertainment.

Video:
The 1.78:1 transfer is, in a word, stunning. The colors are bright and vibrant, there is little grain found, and the darks are deep and distinguished; something that is very important during the film’s final scene on a darkened rooftop. I honestly could not believe how good the film looked, considering its age. The cinematography, which rightly won an Academy Award, is breathtaking. The crane and tracking shots that follow the protagonists on a ride through the hills of the French Riviera look stellar. There were no noticeable or distracting film artifacts, nor scratches or hairs. I cannot say enough good things about this transfer.

Audio:
There are two flavors available for your aural pleasure: the original mono track and a re-mixed Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. Both are suitable choices for enjoying the film, however the 2.0 mix features more depth, with a surprising amount of bass. The dialogue is clear and there isn’t a hiss, crackle, or pop to be found.

Extras:
The jewel in this new set is a commentary by prominent critic and filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and author Laurent Bouzereau. The pair go into little depth, but provide a pleasing accompaniment to the film proper. Of most interest to film fans are Bogdanovich’s observations from the perspective of a director, shining a little light into the mind of one of cinema’s best. Since the movie lacks the symbolism of “Birds” or “Rear Window,” the discussion is kept prima fascia. If you are interested in more academic discussion of Hitchcock’s craft, I recommend the Traffaut interviews or Patrick McGuilligan’s biography of the director.

The remainder of the extras are holdovers from the 2002 disc, including a discussion with Pat Hitchcock, Mary Stone, and Steven DeRosa about the process of getting the screenplay past the censors. Although the first featurette is called “Writing and Casting To Catch A Thief,” the discussion of casting is little more than cursory.

A few other members of the crew join the previously-mentioned principles to discuss the making of the film in a similarly-titled documentary. Running just under eighteen minutes, those involved in the production talk about everything from the helicopter shots, proposed alternate-endings, and anecdotes about the famous director.

“Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief” focuses on Hitch and his relationship with both his families, both biological and the crews with whom he spent his life. “Edith Head: The Paramount Years” talks relatively little about the film under review here, instead talking about the legendary costume designer’s long and storied career.

There is also a pillar boxed trailer, the quality of which made me appreciate the restoration work that went into the feature all the more.

Overall:
A playful, fun movie, “To Catch a Thief” is hardly a cinematic classic. It is, however, breezy and entertaining. This new set has a gorgeous transfer that will allow for an entirely new experience for an entirely new generation of viewers. Recommended.
 

DavidJ

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Did I miss something or is this just wishful thinking?
 

Matt Hough

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I'd love to see it on Blu-ray. I have the 2002 issue, and while it looks overly processed, I probably won't upgrade to this and will thus keep my fingers crossed for a high definition treatment.
 

Mark Anthony

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The old DVD was from a hi-def master created around '99, whose source was a 4 perf IP, by the looks of it either some serious digital manipulation has taken place, or this is a new transfer from an 8 perf VV negative and digitally colour-corrected and cleaned up..perhpas Mr Harris may know for sure...

M
 

Colin Jacobson

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The old transfer was a mess - that was one dirty print! I was shocked that another reviewer claimed both DVDs use the same transfer - he clearly just didn't bother to compare them. I watched the old one right after I screened the new one and thought it was a night and day difference - the 2007 DVD looks MUCH better than that ugly old one...
 

Ken_McAlinden

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Just based on the contrast levels, the screencaps at DVD Beaver look like the old transfer was derived from a source that was at least two generations down from that of the new one.

Regards,
 

DeeF

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The new one is certainly fantastic. I can't believe the old one is 5 years ago already!
 

Bill:N

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I read that review too and wrote the reviewer to ask if he was sure he watched the most recent release. He replied and stated he had, and that I could have the old one if I wanted, since he hadn't seen it for 5 years. So much for his comparison.
 

Colin Jacobson

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That's just lame. If I can't directly compare a DVD and it's been a long time, I'd put a disclaimer about that in my review. If you say something's exactly the same transfer, you'd better know that for a fact!
 

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