Fox // 1966 // 123 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jesse Ataide (Retired) // February 8th, 2005
The finer things in life are free (and sometimes fake)!
Thirteen years after he unveiled Audrey Hepburn to the world in the charming romance Roman Holiday, director William Wyler teamed up with the international icon to make another light romantic comedy. It was their third collaboration together (following the unsuccessful drama The Children's Hour in 1961), but sadly proved to be their last.
Based on the short story "Venus Rising" by George Bradshaw, How to Steal a Million features a rather contrived plot about a wealthy art forger (Academy Award winner Hugh Griffith, Ben Hur) and his beautiful daughter (Hepburn) who are about to be exposed as frauds after they allow one of their fake statues to be displayed in a major art exhibition. In a desperate attempt to save face, Hepburn solicits help from a dashing society burglar (Peter O'Toole, Lawrence of Arabia) to steal the statue before tests can be made to reveal its true origin. The "burglar" isn't exactly what he appears to be, however, and as they plot their haphazard heist, the two inevitably begin to fall in love.
How to Steal a Million is generally regarding as one of Audrey Hepburn's lesser films, and it's hard to refute such a statement. The film, which boasts authentic Parisian location work and numerous Givenchy gowns, has all the elements of a successful romantic caper in the vein of Roman Holiday, but never quite comes together in a totally satisfactory manner. While the plot is obviously not meant to be taken seriously, the heist itself is laughably absurd, displaying none of the tension or skill that marks the work of Alfred Hitchcock (director of the similarly-themed To Catch a Thief), whose image is playfully referenced early in the film.
Much could be forgiven, however, if Hepburn and O'Toole were able to sell us on the romantic angle of the film. But despite Hepburn's winning smile and O'Toole trademark blue eyes, the two stars never generate much chemistry as a couple (the same can be said regarding a subplot involving Hepburn and a smitten American art collector played by Eli Wallach). This could be attributed to the essential miscasting of O'Toole in the central role -- he not only appears uncomfortable playing a suave ladies man, but is utterly unconvincing as a potential thief.
Most will be drawn to the film on the strength of Audrey Hepburn's reputation, and she doesn't disappoint. She's as lovely as ever -- elegantly swathed in Givenchy and flitting around Paris, her large brown eyes apparently finding something appealing in O'Toole's character that escapes the rest of us. As an Audrey Hepburn vehicle, How to Steal a Million is mildly successful, and fans will eagerly consume this insubstantial trifle.
How to Steal a Million, one of the latest Fox Studio Classic releases, is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and is adequately restored (there is one grainy sequence early in the film that is particularly jarring, however). Both Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and mono audio tracks in English are provided, as are mono tracks in Spanish and French. English and Spanish subtitles are also included.
A commentary by Eli Wallach and Catherine Wyler (the director's daughter) is the major extra provided on this disc. It is mildly interesting, though long pauses abound (the two speakers were obviously recorded at different times). Wallach's comments are generally fond reminisces of Hepburn and his involvement in the film; Wyler, who directed a documentary about her famous father, provides more solid information about the creation of the film and those connected with it. The A&E documentary "Audrey Hepburn: The Fairest Lady" is a good introduction to the life and career of the beloved actress, but sadly doesn't reveal much new information for fans (though it's always a pleasure to watch film clips of somebody so lovely). Four unrestored teaser and theatrical trailers round out the film's extras.
Though the film itself is only of limited interest, How to Steal a Million will undoubtedly finds its way into the collections of countless Audrey Hepburn devotees, and for good reason: the film's main pleasure is to watch the inimitable actress and icon in action.
Not guilty, but just barely: This judge can't resist the charms of Hepburn any more than any other smitten fan.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary with Eli Wallach and Catherine Wyler
* A&E Biography: "Audrey Hepburn: The Fairest Lady"
* Theatrical Trailer
* Teaser Trailer