Reformed burglar John ‘The Cat’ Robie (Cary Grant) finds himself suspected of numerous jewel heists on the French Riviera thanks to his pre-WWI past. To clear his name, he makes friends with insurance agent H. H. Hughson (John Williams) and cozies up to American oil baroness Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her sexy headstrong daughter Francie (Grace Kelly) in order to ferret out the real culprit, knowing his contacts and the ladies’ jewel collection will both be targets of the actual thief.
I adore To Catch a Thief. Adore it to the very corner of my soul. In many ways it fills the very fiber of my being. It is a movie I can’t help but live, breath and swim within, and as such I find it a cinematic classic of the highest order.
Is this thin, somewhat silly, unabashedly romantic glossy Hollywood thriller Alfred Hitchcock’s best film? Not even close. Is it arguably my absolute favorite of the suspense master’s works all the same? I’d have to hesitantly say yes to that question, because as much as I adore North by Northwest, Psycho, Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, Rebecca or Notorious this is the freewheeling blissful entertainment I’ve probably seen more times than any other of in the director’s legendary oeuvre.
The script by John Michael Hayes (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Butterfield 8), based on the book by David Dodge, is a trifle at best, but just because that’s so it doesn’t make the picture itself any less fun. Smart, literate, simple and told with a precise attention to detail that is signature Hitchcock, the film is a witty, sensually intoxicating menagerie of innuendo, romance and suspense that just gets better and better as the years go by and more and more filmmakers attempt to emulate it (The Tourist, anyone?). Grant and Kelly have exquisite chemistry and watching them romp around the Riviera is truly just about as divine as it gets. This is movie star charisma times a thousand, and watching their effortless stab at romantic entanglement is a stunning joy.
A great assist for the film’s overall success must be given to Robert Burks’ (The Birds, Vertigo) Oscar-winning color cinematography. His VistaVision widescreen compositions are extraordinary. Hitchcock was never one to be a fan of location shooting, but on this film he knew photographing on the actual French Riviera was vital to the film’s success. Colors are sharp, elegant and alive, and never has been Grant or Kelly been shot in such stunning detail.
But everything about the movie, from the way it pushes the boundaries of the still in place Hollywood production code to Edith Head’s (Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve) sumptuous costumes (there a little blue number that Kelly wears early on I’ve always wanted a copy of for myself, I must admit), everything comes together in a way bordering on eye-popping. The final rooftop portions, shot with an emerald green hue giving things a beguiling eeriness that gives me Goosebumps every time I watch the film, are utterly magnificent, and while the conclusion – or, for that matter, the resolution to the central mystery – are never in doubt that doesn’t mean my breath doesn’t stop or my pulse doesn’t race all the same. To Catch a Thief is a classic, plain and simple, and I can’t imagine anyone anywhere who won’t have a grandly magnificent time if they decide to give it a look.
To Catch a Thief is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1080p 1.85:1 transfer. Stunning. This Blu-ray, in many ways, is like watching To Catch a Thief for the very first time. Never have the colors looked this amazing, all of them popping off the screen with a 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.
This disc features English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 as well as English Dolby TrueHD Mono and French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital mono tracks and includes optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here (the majority of which are ported over from previous DVD editions) include:
· Audio Commentary with Hitchcock Film Historian Drew Casper
· A Night with the Hitchcocks (23:22)
· Unacceptable Under the Code: Censorship in Hollywood (11:49)
· Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief (9:03)
· The Making of To Catch a Thief (16:54)
· Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (6:12)
· Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation (7:32)
· Edith Head: The Paramount Years (13:44)
· If You Love To Catch a Thief, You'll Love this Interactive Travelogue
· Original Theatrical Trailer (2:13)
Even though the majority of these extras have all been previously available, that doesn’t make any of them any less wonderful. All of the featurettes, especially A Night with the Hitchcocks, Unacceptable Under the Code and Edith Head: The Paramount Years, are wonderful and full of detailed information, while the audio commentary with Drew Casper is an endearing, if at times a bit professorial, delight. The Interactive Travelogue is also a ton of fun, and even though it is a little on the superficial and glossy side that doesn’t make diving into its many splendors any less divine.
To Catch a Thief might not be Hitchcock’s best film, but it is undeniably without a doubt one of his most sumptuously entertaining. Paramount’s Blu-ray restoration is perfection incarnate, and as such is a sensational addition to your personal hi-def library.