Paramount // 1955 // 106 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // March 1st, 2012
If you love life, you'll love France!
2012 has been a good year for Hitchcock fans. Blu-ray releases of Spellbound, Notorious, and Rebecca have all been released by MGM to good reviews, both for the obvious merits of the films and the standard of quality for their high definition transfers and bonus features. The Hitch parade keeps on rolling, as the best non-thriller of his career, To Catch a Thief, comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount.
John Robie (Cary Grant, His Girl Friday) was once known as the renowned burglar "The Cat," stealing jewels from the rich and famous on the French Riviera. Though he's long put those days behind him, someone has recently taken up Robie's act leading the police to believe he's up to his old tricks. To clear his name, Robie poses as a vacationing lumber magnate to get in with a widow and her heiress daughter, Francie (Grace Kelly, High Noon), who packed a stash of precious diamonds, so he can track down the burglar himself.
In the six decades since the release of To Catch a Thief, many critics have described the film as lesser Hitchcock, dismissing it as unworthy of the Master of Suspense. That's preposterous. This wasn't Hitchcock's first comedy and, regardless of genre, a good movie is a good movie. Long having made a career of mixing comedy with suspense, with this film he's simply turned the tables. It's a master doing what he does best: making cinema magic.
For his first foray into Paramount's new VistaVision process, Hitchcock went all out, bringing audiences the vacation film of a lifetime. Most of them couldn't travel to Côte d'Azure themselves, but To Catch a Thief could take them there. What's better than a tour of the French Riviera in widescreen and full Technicolor, all from the comfort of a theater seat, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly as tour guides no less?
There's no denying this light, bouncy romantic comedy was in stark contract to the Master of Suspense's usual fare, but for what the film aims to do, it works just as well as any of his thrillers, thanks in large part to the electricity between Grant and Kelly. As appealing a screen pairing as there ever was, regardless of the absurd age gap, the pair lights up the landscape with their wit and sex appeal. Adding enough suspense just from the tension between them, they get a great deal of help from a fine supporting cast. Joyce Royce Landis (North by Northwest), as Francie's mother, is hilarious; John Williams (Sabrina) is perfect as the Lloyds of London man who uses a thief to catch a thief; and one cannot overlook Brigitte Auber (Rendezvous in July), whose portrayal of Robie's jealous French admirer gets me every time.
The cast is given plenty of fantastic material by screenwriter John Michael Hayes (Butterfield 8), who infuses the scenario and the dialogue with as much double entendre one could possibly want. True, some of it is cheesy -- like the endlessly repeated fireworks/sex scene -- but that's all part of the fun. To Catch a Thief is pure fantasy, and Hitch revels in taking it over the top.
Paramount's To Catch a Thief (Blu-ray) is the best Hitchcockian upgrade I've seen thus far. It's 1.85:1/1080p VistaVision image has never looked better, a stunning high definition transfer that does justice in every way to Robert Burks' (Vertigo) Oscar-winning cinematography. The detail is superb; the lines on the costumes, the textures of the rocks, and even the distant ocean waves clearly visible in every frame. The colors are brilliant and black levels are deep and solid. There are a few small issues with aliasing on the stripey shirts, and an odd set of frames during the costume gala that looks out of place, as if they had been blown up from a 16mm print. However, nothing detracts from the overall experience enough to actually complain about. The primary TrueHD stereo and optional mono tracks are serviceable, though nowhere near as impressive as the film's visuals. The music is warm and full, and the dialogue without a hint of noise.
The bonus features are ported over from the 2009 Centennial Collection release, but that's not a bad thing. It's a full slate of featurettes and interviews that covers almost anything you might want to know about the film. Hitchcock scholar, Dr. Drew Casper, provides a detailed and relatively entertaining commentary that delivers more analysis than technical details. Casper also hosts "A Night with the Hitchcocks," which brings Hitch's daughter and granddaughter to USC to answer questions from film students. These three talking heads are all over the Blu-ray's numerous featurettes, which include "Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief," "The Making of To Catch a Thief," "Behind the Scenes: Cary Grand and Grace Kelly," and "Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation. The only two features not directly focused on the film are "Unacceptable Under the Code: Film Censorship in Hollywood," which explores how Hitchcock subverted the code to achieve all of the film's sexy imagery; and "Edith Head: The Paramount Years," which profiles the great costume designer who made the clothes in the film. The only disappointing feature is an interactive travelogue, which is unnecessary, cumbersome, and not nearly detailed enough. A photo gallery and a trailer round out the presentation.
I hate using language like "perfection" when it comes to discussing movies, but when the subject is To Catch a Thief, it's hard not to adore what Hitchcock was able to accomplish. Though certainly not his most suspenseful film, it has everything else one could want from a cinematic experience -- action, romance, style, comedy, and two of Hollywood's most iconic stars running around one of the world's most gorgeous locales. To Catch a Thief is an absolute delight and Paramount's Blu-ray makes it worth the upgrade.
Review content copyright © 2012 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 2.0 Stereo (English)
* TrueHD 1.0 Mono (English)
* TrueHD 1.0 Mono (French)
* TrueHD 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
* TrueHD 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery