Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Jan 16, 2005.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    Touchez Pas Au Grisbi
    The Criterion Collection

    Studio: Criterion Collection
    Year: 1954
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 96 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: French
    Subtitles: English
    MSRP: $29.95
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    Max (played by Jean Gabin) is an aging crime boss. Though he is abrupt and rather cantankerous, he carries an air of refinement, sophistication and most importantly, loyalty. Gruff on the surface, compassionate and warm on the inside. He’s obviously worked his way up the ranks and plans to retire using 50 million in gold bars he has stashed away from an earlier robbery. Max is well known in the community and is highly respected within the circles in which he travels. Recognizing the fact he is not getting any younger, Max tries to convince his best friend and lifelong partner in crime, Riton (played by René Dary) to pack it in and spend the rest of their lives coasting on the hoarded nest egg.

    The men are dating a pair of flighty dancers; Lola (played by Dora Doll) is Max’s beautiful companion, while Josy, (played by Jeanne Moreau) is Riton’s love interest. Much younger than their male companions, both girls crave the parties and late nights that follow their performances, however Max is no longer interested in late nights and prefers to call his evenings earlier. Riton, on the other hand, is caught up with his girlfriend and needs to be reminded to seem less interested.

    Riton’s equally beautiful young girlfriend, Josy is tiring of her beau and starts an affair with Max’s gang rival, Angelo (played by Lino Ventura). Josy has fallen head over heals for Angelo but is terrified to call off the relationship and asks for Max to intervene. What Max doesn’t know is that she has told Angelo of his stashed loot. When Angelo learns of the stash-pile, he decides to kidnap Riton, knowing Max’s loyalty and friendship to Riton will ensure him turning over the gold bars for his safe return.

    Contact is made by Angelo and the arrangements are made for the swap, but like in any great noir, there’s a twist. It’s not that simple and things go terribly amiss when one side plots a double-cross.


    Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (Hands Off The Loot) is a film that highlights friendship and honor. While it would be easy to dismiss Riton’s foolish decision and judgment to tell his girlfriend about all the gold, Max sticks by his friend willing to give up his entire future plans to save him. It’s clear throughout the movie that Riton has been a nuisance for the past twenty years even calling him "porcupine head" in jest, however, he has been a lifelong loyal friend, something Max isn’t willing to discard.

    This is a terrific film and even though all of the performances are first rate, special mention has to be given to the director, Jacques Becker (Le Trou (1960) and Casque d'or (1952) – the latter, also released by Criterion on the same date) who does a masterful job. If ever there was a film that excels from the “less is more” philosophy, this is it. While the characters rarely speak, their expressions, body language and mannerisms brilliantly set the tone, making their feelings abundantly clear. A fine example of “low key” performances.

    Touchez Pas Au Grisbi exhibits a number of film noir characteristics and elements including effective (but limited) voice over narration, terrific and atmospheric use of B&W photography and the duplicitous femme fatale who leads the two bosses to the ultimate showdown. Without getting too specific, the film concludes unlike many of the typical American noirs with extreme and brutal violence - nothing that hasn't become commonplace with contemporary films, but certainly not very routine for films of the period.

    The Feature: 4.5/5

    Touchez Pas Au Grisbi is presented in its original OAR of 1.33:1 and save for some minor age related issues, looks fantastic.

    First up, the black levels are outstanding - deep as imaginable, while the whites were always stark and clean. The level of grayscale is vast and impressive. Contrast and shadow detail levels were quite satisfactory.

    The majority of this film looks quite sharp with only occasional signs of softness, which isn't transfer related. Some of the facial close-ups are quite impressive indeed. There is a healthy amount of fine film-grain present throughout the entire film resulting in a gorgeous film-like image. The look of the film has a distinct velvety look which is quite easy on the eyes over its entire duration.

    Although there are signs of dust and dirt, it is infrequent and never bothersome. Scratches are also visible at times, but never bothersome.

    The film is mostly solid with only infrequent signs of shimmer and jitter. Compression and authoring appears to have been handled perfectly as there are no indications of any sort of artifacting or haloing.

    The subtitles are white and could be a little bolder, but this is really just nitpicking.

    Super job, Criterion...!

    Video: 4.5/5

    The audio is encoded in DD monaural and for the most part does everything right.

    There is only a hint of the slightest amount of hiss and the track is clean and free of any pops or crackling problems. The overall tonality of the track is natural, although there is little to speak of in terms of depth or dynamics.

    Typical with the majority or newer Criterion releases, dialogue shows up appreciably bold and clear, nor is it lost or competing during the music score.

    Speaking of which, the music used to score this film, is for the most part, similar in style to the music used in American crime dramas. The music used to accompany the main menu sequence including several scenes is reminiscent of an afternoon Parisian Café visit. While I wouldn't call the piece distracting, it serves as an instant reminder as to where this film originates from. At times that very piece becomes slightly edgy, but it isn't particularly bothersome.

    A very pleasing track that given the limitations of the period, serves the film quite well.

    Audio: 4/5

    Special Features:
    The disc also comes with several very good special features starting with:
    [*] Three Interviews featuring:
    • Lino Ventura Duration: 9:10 minutes.
    • Jean Wiener Duration: 1:52 minutes.
    • Daniel Cauchy Duration: 7:27 minutes.
    [*] Cineastes De Notre Temps – in 1967, seven years after the death of Jacques Becker, the renowned French Television series Cineastes De Notre Temps dedicated an episode to the director in which friends and collaborators discussed what it was like to work with him. Among the participants were screenwriter Maurice Griffe, author Albert Simonin, Lino Ventura and François Truffaut. The Episode was directed by Claude De Givray. Duration: 5:40 minutes.
    [*] Up next is the Theatrical Trailer which is in very good shape. Duration: 3:59 minutes.
    [*] The final supplements are two Inserts; the first is a 10 page booklet which is a “salute” to Criterion’s collection of Rialto Pictures. The next insert is an 8 page foldout which contains two short essays on the film and its director by Geoffrey O’Brien and the other, by Philip Kemp as well as a complete list of cast & crew credits and a chapter stop list.

    All of the interviews and features are worthwhile inclusions which complement the film quite nicely.

    Special Features: 4/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    Touchez Pas Au Grisbi is a film that goes beyond that of a simple crime picture, the movie captures the essence of true friendship and loyalty, and those willing to lose anything and everything to save a pal. This film really caught me by surprise. This is a terrifically taut and engaging film noir with outstanding performances all around as well as stunning black-and-white cinematography, an evocative and incredibly sophisticated atmosphere with a dazzling script.

    If you’re a fan of older crime films from the golden age, do yourself a favor and check this one out. The film itself is superb and the presentation is outstanding. This is yet another terrific job from the folks at Criterion and one I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second to highly recommend – you won’t be sorry!

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)

    Highly Recommended..!!

    Release Date: January 18th, 2005

  2. Lars Vermundsberget

    Lars Vermundsberget Supporting Actor

    Nov 20, 2000
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    I think I'll order this now.
  3. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 2004
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    It's a wonderful DVD. It's a bit weird (and amusing) that the reviewer can discuss the FILM itself but that posters can't. Good job, Herb.
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Real Name:

    The difference is the reviewer is giving a brief overview of the film so that members not familiar with the film can make an informed judgement as to whether they want to pursue buying or renting the reviewed dvd. If you want to discuss the film in more detail then by all means start a film discussion thread in Movies.

  5. Rod

    Rod Agent

    Jan 27, 2004
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    Thanks for the fine review, Herb. It's nice to see the DVD release of a foreign film get some well deserved exposure. I'm looking forward to both Grisbi and Casque d'or this week.

  6. AlexHL

    AlexHL Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 28, 2003
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    Same here!
  7. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    Finally watched this and wanted to chime in with a hearty recommendation as well. A great film and DVD - this'll probably make my top ten for the year (though competition is likely to be tough!).

    Only four more days till the Gangsters Collection! Woo-hoo!
  8. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

    Aug 3, 2002
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    Great review, Herb!

    I'll be ordering this and Casque d'Or today.

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