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Alfred Hitchcock
Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Charles Vanel, Brigitte Auber, Jean Martinelli, Georgette Anys
Writing Credits:
John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by David Dodge

Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Cinematography.
Nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Costume Design.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Digital Mono
French Digital Mono

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 11/5/2002

• Writing and Casting of To Catch A Thief
• The Making-Of To Catch A Thief
• Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief
• Photo and Poster Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer
• Edith Head: The Paramount Years Featurette


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To Catch a Thief (1955)

Reviewed by David Williams and Colin Jacobson (April 24, 2007)

In 1955, Alfred Hitchcock released To Catch A Thief and it couldn’t have been much more different than his previous outing, 1954’s Rear Window. Where Window provided a claustrophobic film that took place in a solitary apartment and its immediate courtyard, To Catch A Thief became one of the more open and visually striking Hitchcock films to that date. Actually, about the only similarities between the two aforementioned films is that they both starred the absolutely stunning Grace Kelly, featured an innocent man falsely accused, a striking female lead, lots of glamour, a bit of romance, and a sprinkling of humor.

Thief used the glamorous backdrop of southern France and Paramount’s VistaVision camera to show precarious shots taken from fast-moving vehicles and helicopters. Robert Burks actually won the Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography. While that became the only Oscar victory for the film, the sets and costumes also earned nominations.

Although Cary Grant had announced his retirement from film two years prior to making To Catch A Thief, he simply couldn’t turn down another chance to work with Hitch – or a chance to work with the glamorous Grace Kelly. Grant had already worked with Hitchcock on Suspicion in 1941 and Notorious in 1946 and would actually work with him again in 1959 in North By Northwest. Grace Kelly would find herself working with Hitchcock for the third time in two years, as she had just completed Rear Window and 1954’s Dial M For Murder before that. (In an interesting side note, it was during the filming of To Catch A Thief that Grace Kelly also met her soon-to-be husband, Prince Rainier of Monaco.) Thief was quite a collaborative effort between the three and while other films from each were certainly better, Thief definitely stands out as a nice group effort.

In To Catch A Thief, a very tanned and fit Grant stars as John “The Cat” Robie, a famed cat burglar in France before World War II and one who would come to fight on the side of the French Resistance Army. Because of his heroic actions during the war, he was considered a hero by many and thus gave up his life of crime. Lately however, some burglaries have taken place in the area that seem very similar to the ones Robie pulled years ago. These make the police wonder if Robie has decided to come out of his self-imposed retirement to start his life of crime all over again.

The police arrive at Robie’s flat and consider him guilty on the spot. However, Robie makes a quick escape and stops at a local restaurant run by some of his former friends from the resistance. They also make a rush to judgment and assume his guilt. They feel betrayed by him and welcome him with much less than open arms. With the cops in hot pursuit, Robie must make another quick escape from the restaurant and then it hits him – if he’s going to clear his name, he must catch this imitator in the act.

With the assistance of an insurance investigator H. H. Hughson (John Williams), Robie receives a list of the richest insured clients in the region who own what the burglar wants to get his hands on: expensive jewels. That way, Robie can play the game right along with the new “Cat” and try to figure out his next move. Not only does Hughson help Robie by providing him with a client list, but also he helps set up a “chance” meeting between Robie and one of his most influential clients, rich American widow Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Frances (Kelly). The duo lavishly lives it up in Europe - jewels and all – while they also try to find a suitable husband for Frances.

Robie uses a cover to hide his sordid history from the ladies, but Frances finds out about his burgling past and actually seems quite turned on with the danger accompanying Robie and his secret. However, when her mother’s jewels come up missing, she immediately assumes that Robie has pulled a fast one over on her and her mother and she lets him know as much. Realizing that he’s falling for Frances, Robie wants more than ever to uncover the true identity of the real thief to clear his name. However, it seems that his nine lives are quickly expiring.

Ultimately, To Catch A Thief is great fun, but can hardly be considered suspenseful. We never witness any real danger or peril in the film and while it shows Hitchcockian elements, it hardly stands as one of his finest achievements. The film presents nothing more than light-hearted fun and is best enjoyed as such.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C/ Bonus C

To Catch a Thief appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie suffered from a disappointing transfer.

Source flaws created the majority of the problems. Throughout the flick, I noticed lots of specks, marks, grit, grain, scratches, streaks and general debris. These varied from moderate to heavy as they offered nearly constant distractions.

Other aspects of the transfer showed concerns as well. Prominent edge enhancement cropped up, and that meant iffy sharpness. Much of the movie offered decent delineation, but a lot of shots came across as iffy and ill-defined. Though I noticed no jagged edges, shimmering was a concern via striped shirts.

Colors served as a relative strong point. Though those elements varied, the movie’s bright palette usually meant that we found reasonably lively hues. I thought they could have been more dynamic, though, as the general drabness of the transfer lessened their impact. Blacks were adequate, but shadows tended to be thick. The green tint given to “day for night” shots looked off, and these scenes were too dense and difficult to discern. Overall, this was a flawed image.

At least the monaural soundtrack of To Catch a Thief seemed fine for its age and scope. Low-end heft failed to appear, as the track usually exhibited a tinny, trebly sound. This mostly affected music and effects, which were clear but without much range. I thought they needed greater vivacity and punch. Speech was a bit thin but remained intelligible and concise. The lines lacked edginess or notable flaws, though some poor looping created distractions. Clearly they revoiced some actors – and they did a terrible job of it. All of this added up to a pretty mediocre soundtrack.

When we move to the extras, we find four featurettes. Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief lasts nine minutes as it involves comments from daughter Pat Hitchcock, granddaughter Mary Stone, and author Steven DeRosa. “Writing and Casting” covers… um, writing and casting. We learn about the adaptation of the original novel as well as how the various actors came onto the project. DeRosa offers most of the information, and he gives us some fine notes about censorship issues and cut sequences. The cast-related aspects are less interesting but throw out a couple of decent tidbits. This is a short but reasonably effective program.

Next we get the 16-minute and 54-second The Making Of To Catch a Thief. It features remarks from Stone, DeRosa, Pat Hitchcock, production manager Doc Erickson, and French continuity person Sylvette Baudrot. We find info about shooting on location in France, problems related to language and actors, the use of VistaVision and cinematography, costumes and period continuity, some notes about Hitchcock and his style, censorship concerns, score, the movie’s release and a few general memories of the production.

The title of “Making” seems a little misleading, as the featurette doesn’t provide a full examination of the movie’s creation. Nonetheless, it spices up the DVD with a nice collection of anecdotes and facts. Though it doesn’t follow a particularly coherent path, the content seems interesting and useful enough to keep us involved.

For the seven-minute and 32-second Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief - An Appreciation, we hear from Pat Hitchcock, Stone, and Baudrot. “Appreciation” acts more as a love letter to the director than to the film. That’s fine, as we get some sweet anecdotes about Hitchcock and see a few home movies from his life. The end result seems fairly inconsequential but enjoyable. I do like Stone’s comments about taking a class on Hitchcock films in college and how her discussions with him affected that course.

Finally, we get Edith Head – The Paramount Years. It runs 13 minutes, 41 seconds as it offers notes from biographer David Chierichetti, Custom-Made Costume department head Tzetzi Ganey, fashion designer Bob Mackie, and actor Rosemary Clooney. “Years” looks at the famous costume designer and her work over the years. It seems awfully short for a take on someone with such a long and successful career, and it only tells us a little about Thief. Nonetheless, a quick overview is better than nothing, and we find enough useful notes to make the show worthwhile.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a poster and photo gallery. This presents a running montage of still images. It lasts seven minutes, three seconds as it displays 83 shots. It mixes candid pictures, movie frames, and various publicity materials to become a good collection.

The duo of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly are as gorgeous as the backdrop of the French Riviera and while To Catch A Thief doesn’t rate as one of Hitchcock’s best efforts, it’s an enjoyable romp nonetheless. The DVD offers decent audio and extras but suffers from a weak transfer. This is a problematic release for an entertaining flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1 Stars Number of Votes: 40
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