on 17 February 2015
TO CATCH A THIEF  [Blu-ray] [US Import] Its Hitchcock . . . It’s Monte Carlo . . . Its Cary Grant and Grace Kelly!
The French Riviera…two luminous stars Grace Kelly and Cary Grant and the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, behind the camera. They all add up to one romantic, dazzling screen thriller for the first time on his Blu-ray edition. Cary Grant plays John Robie, a retired jewel thief once known as “The Cat,” who catches the eye of Frances Stevens [Grace Kelly] a pampered, vacationing heiress. But when a new rash of gem thefts occurs amongst the luxury hotels of the spectacular French Riviera playground, it appears the “The Cat” is on the prowl again. Is John Robie truly reformed? Or is he deviously using Frances Stevens to gain access to the tempting collection of fabulous jewellery belonging to her Mother [Jessie Royce Landis]? Romance sparks fly as the suspense builds in this glittering Alfred Hitchcock classic that nabbed and OSCAR® for Best Cinematography.
FILM FACT: The film won an Academy Award® and was nominated in another two categories. Won: Best Cinematography for Robert Burks. Nominated: Best Art Direction for Hal Pereira, Joseph McMillan Johnson, Samuel M. Comer and Arthur Krams. Best Costume Design for Edith Head. This was Alfred Hitchcock's first of five films in the widescreen process VistaVision and the final film with Grace Kelly. The film also led to another successful collaboration with Cary Grant, the 1959 classic ‘North by Northwest,’ and also about a man with a mistaken identity who goes on a breakneck adventure to prove his innocence. The costumes were by Edith Head, including Grace Kelly's memorable golden gown for the film's costume ball. Alfred Hitchcock makes his signature cameo approximately ten minutes in as a bus passenger sitting next to Cary Grant.
Cast: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Charles Vanel, Brigitte Auber, Jean Martinelli, Georgette Anys, George Adrian (uncredited), John Alderson (uncredited), Martha Bamattre (uncredited), René Blancard (uncredited), Eugene Borden (uncredited), Nina Borget (uncredited), John Breen (uncredited), Jack Chefe (uncredited), Frank Chelland (uncredited), Reinie Costello (uncredited), William 'Wee Willie' Davis (uncredited), Guy De Vestel (uncredited), Lala Detolly (uncredited), Bess Flowers (uncredited), Art Gilmore (Trailer Narrator (voice) uncredited) and Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producer: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: John Michael Hayes, Alec Coppel (contributing writer) and David Dodge (based on the novel)
Composer: Lyn Murray
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 [VistaVision]
Audio: English: 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Stereo, English: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Portuguese: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Running Time: 106 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: It takes a thief to catch a thief. That's the old saying, anyhow. And that's the thesis Alfred Hitchcock is exhibiting in his new mystery thriller-romance at the Paramount. With Cary Grant playing the catcher and Grace Kelly playing, well, we won't say! ‘To Catch a Thief’ comes off completely as a hit in the old Hitchcock style. We're not saying much about Miss Grace Kelly, other than to observe that she is cool, exquisite and superior as a presumably rich American girl traveling with her mother in Europe in a quest (her mother says) of a man. To say more might tip you as to whether she is what you suspect her to be the jewel thief whom Cary Grant is stalking through the lush gambling-rooms and gilded chambers of French Riviera villas, casinos and hotels.
Well from the start of the film it keeps you guessing whether he is the slick cat-burglar, because he says he is out to touch in his previous slick cat-burglar days and that is where Alfred Hitchcock keeps you on tender hook. And vows to help an insurance man from Lloyds of London. What with his being an acknowledged old gem thief, living in a villa high above Cannes and chumming with a covey of ex-convicts, he could be almost anything. He's the fellow who genuinely tries to use his own knowledge of being a cat-burglary to nab the thief who has been terrorising Cannes and causing hysterics and conniptions among the always ineffectual police. But then there are enough other suspects, especially ex-convicts, French thugs and pretty girls, not to mention that nervous Lloyds of London fellow.
Other memorable scenes from ‘To Catch A Thief’ include the elaborate costume ball which Alfred Hitchcock wanted to film merely to showcase Grace Kelly's shimmering gold gown and Cary Grant's unmasking of the thief on the rooftop. "John Michael Hayes recalled that, during the filming of the final rooftop sequence, Hitchcock summoned him up to the high scaffolding, "Look at them all down there," the director said to his writer, "They think we're discussing something important or profound. But I only wanted to find out whether you're as frightened of heights as I am." (From “The Dark Side of Hitchcock”).
In his accustomed manner, Alfred Hitchcock has gone at this job with an omnivorous eye for catchy details and a dandy John Michael Hayes script. Most of his visual surprises are fantastic, spectacular vistas along the breath-taking Cote d'Azur. As no one has ever done before him, and especially Alfred Hitchcock has used that famous coast to form a pictorial backdrop that fairly yanks your eyes out of your head. Almost at the start, he gives you an automobile chase along roads that wind through cliff-hanging, seaside villages. The surprise is that it is seen from the air! If you have ever been on the Riviera, the images you view look totally brilliant, especially in the awesome Technicolor and VistaVision, splashed on that giant screen.
The script and the actors keep things popping along at a fast pace, in a fast, slick, sophisticated vein. Cary Grant and Miss Grace Kelly do us proud, especially in one sly seduction scene. If you've never heard double-entendre, you will hear it in this film. As the chap from Lloyds of London, John Williams is delightfully anxious and very dry, and Jessie Royce Landis is most amusing as Miss Kelly's low-down American mother. Brigitte Auber is fetching and funny as a frightfully forward French girl, and Charles Vanel has the air of a rascal as a local restaurateur. The direction, of course, is up to the usual high standards of Hitchcock. The film is expertly paced, with just enough jolts interspersed with the comedy to remind the audience that it is, after all, viewing an Alfred Hitchcock film. As Hitchcock himself has admitted, ‘To Catch A Thief’ has be entitled a "lightweight story," at least compared to such thrillers as ‘Strangers On A Train’ , ‘Rear Window’  and ‘Psycho’ , to name a few of the film's approximate contemporaries. But a lightweight story in the hands of Alfred Hitchcock does not necessarily make for an inconsequential film. ‘To Catch A Thief’ is an outstanding comedy, highlighted by the acting of Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and John Landis, and the Academy Award® winning cinematography of Robert Burks.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘To Catch a Thief’ is presented on a Blu-ray disc, with a stunning 1080p encoded image and with an also stunning 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This Blu-ray, in many ways, is like watching ‘To Catch a Thief’ for the very first time. Never have the colours looked this amazing, all of them popping off the screen with shocking electricity that blew my mind. Black levels are striking and strong throughout, clarity borders on perfection and while the age of the print is evident in a handful of scenes by and large Paramount’s restoration of the negative is beyond outstanding.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – There is only so much you can do with many soundtracks of this era. The 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Stereo offers a clearl upfront presentation, however, given the other available soundtrack options, this is as good as it gets. Dialogue, an essential component to the realisation of this film, is crisp and clear. Not to worry, I did not miss the surround effects or throbbing low frequency sound waves. ‘To Catch a Thief’ does not need any of these elements to get its point across.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary from Dr. Drew Casper, Professor of American Film and Hitchcock Film Historian: Alfred Hitchcock Film Historian [effete] Dr. Drew Casper, often sounding as if reading his comments, discusses the VistaVision process, the score, the colour palette, shooting locales, Hitchcock's career and style, the specific technical merits of the shoot and the work and make-up of the cast, and even going so far in-depth to discuss how a slight angling of the credits, combined with their colour, suggests the film's duality between light and bubbly motifs and darker elements.
Special Feature: A Night with the Hitchcocks  [1080p] [16:9] [23:20] Footage of the Question and Answer session with Mary Stone [Granddaughter of Alfred Hitchcock], Patricia Hitchcock [Daughter of Alfred Hitchcock] and Dr Drew Casper filmed at the University of Southern California in 2008, with an introduction by Elizabeth Daley, who is the Dean at the School of Cinematic Arts.
Special Feature: Unacceptable Under the Code: Film Censorship in America  [1080p/480i] [16:9] [11:48] Here we get to see people like Dr. Richard Jewell [Hefner Professor of American Film at the University of Southern California], Dr, Drew Casper [Professor of American Film of the University of Southern California], and Del Reisman [Former President of the Writers Guild of America, West] talk about Censorship in the American Cinema and how the Will Hayes Code came in and how Alfred Hitchcock fooled the censors with the sexual innuendoes in the film ‘To Catch A Thief’ and was totally blatant about it.
Special Feature: Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief  [480i] [4:3] [9:03] Participating in this documentary are Patricia Hitchcock [Daughter of Alfred Hitchcock], Mary Stone [Granddaughter of Alfred Hitchcock], and Steven DeRosa [Author of “Writing with Hitchcock”] discuss how ‘To Catch A Thief’ was brought to the screen, especially how the script was altered many times from its initial draft, especially the censors objection to the sexual references and the cost to sections of the film that were dropped from the finished film.
Special Feature Documentary: The Making of To Catch a Thief  [480i] [4:3] [16:53] With this insightful documentary, people like Mary Stone [Granddaughter of Alfred Hitchcock], Doc Erickson [Production Manager], Steven DeRosa [Author of “Writing with Hitchcock”] and Sylvette Baudrot [Continuity/France] talk about how the film evolved, especially the choice of location in the South of France, that Alfred Hitchcock and family use to holiday regular. It also informs you why they chose the actors, script editor, technical experts and composer, in bringing Alfred Hitchcock film to the silver screen.
Special Feature: Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly  [1080p] [16:9] [16:12] Participation in this feature are A. C. Lyles [Producer] and Richard Schickel [Film Historian] who inform us whay cary grant and Grace Kelly were chosen for ‘To Catch A Thief’ and how the camera captured the magic allure of these two actors. One interesting fact brought to our attention, is that this was the last film Grace Kelly ever did, because after this she married the Prince of Monaco.
Special Feature: Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation  [480i] [4:3] [7:32] Here we get to see a nice informal insight with Patricia Hitchcock [Daughter of Alfred Hitchcock], Mary Stone [Granddaughter of Alfred Hitchcock] and Sylvette Baudrot [Continuity/France] who give us very personal information about the private life of Alfred Hitchcock and how he had brilliant naughty humour, and also why he chose South of France and of course as I have mention earlier, the whole family use to love to go on holiday in the that part of France where ‘To Catch A Thief’ was filmed. But what is also very nice is that we get to see Alfred Hitchcock’s private home movies.
Special Feature: Edith Head: The Paramount Years  [480i] [4:3] [13:44] Here is another very nice personal documentary about the famous Hollywood clothes designer and is told with great affection by the likes of David Chierichetti [Edith Head’s Biographer], Tzeti Ganeu [Head of the Custom-Made department of Western Costume], Bob Mackie [Fashion Designer] and Rosemary Clooney [Actress] who talk in great detail why Edith head became Paramount’s top clothes designer and how Edith Head was so good at making the actors look good, and especially the male actors, who Edith Head preferred to design clothes for.
Special Feature: Interactive Travelogue Feature: If You Love To Catch Thief, You’ll Love This [1080p] [16:9/4:3] With this Interactive Travelogue Feature, you get to see the via a map of the South of France where each actual location of the film was shot and all you have to do is press ENTER on your remote where the cross is located on the map and what you get is a brief description via a voice over of the actual location where ‘To Catch A Thief’ was filmed.
Theatrical Trailer: This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘To Catch A Thief’ [1080p] [1.78:1] [2:12]
Special Feature: Galleries [1080p] This is in four separate categories and they consist of:
1. Movie: Here you get to see 33 black-and-white prestige publicity shots from the film, and mainly of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.
2. Publicity: Here you get to see 11 black-and-white studio images, mainly of the actors from the film set in set publicity promotional photographs.
3. Visitors To The Set: This time you get to see other famous stars visiting the film set and they consist of 14 black-and-white images. Under certain photographs you get yellow typeface wording describing who the stars were and what is happening in that particular photograph.
4. Production: Here we get to see 72 black-and-white rare informal publicity images around the Paramount Studio and in South of France. Once again under certain photographs you get a yellow typeface wording describing who the stars were and what is happening in that particular photograph.
Finally, ‘To Catch a Thief’ is one great watch. Grace Kelly made very few films and retired a year after shooting this film, following her marriage to Prince Rainier. Monaco’s gain was Hollywood’s loss since Grace Kelly shows an unerring comedic talent and luminous screen presence. Co-star Cary Grant has deft control of the leading man persona and takes to comedy like a duck to water. Considering what passes for comic presentation in today’s cinema, he delivers a performance that should be mandatory viewing for all aspiring actors. There is also something to be said for clever, articulate dialogue without profanity or incoherence as the give-and-take between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly amply demonstrates. Also finding out why Director Alfred Hitchcock’s knew how to make all aspects of this film come together and exploits the scenic landscape for all that its worth. But first and foremost, this film reminds us that film-making is a visual art form. In this regard, Paramount Pictures centennial celebration is well served by this brilliant Blu-ray reissue of ‘To Catch a Thief.’ Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom