To Catch a Thief appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though erratic, this became a mostly positive presentation.
Sharpness varied, as periodic soft spots emerged. While these didn’t come across as seriously ill-defined, the image could become more tentative than preferred.
Still, most of the movie offered good accuracy, and I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering. Unlike prior versions of the film, Grant’s striped shirt failed to strobe.
Edge haloes remained absent, as did print flaws. Though it appeared some noise reduction usage occurred, light grain manifested through the film, so the potential NR didn’t obliterate grain.
Colors became a highlight, as the movie’s broad palette worked well. The different hues largely seemed vibrant and full.
Blacks appeared dense, and outside of a mismastered day for night scene, shadows felt appropriate. This wasn’t a great image but it remained watchable.
In terms of audio, the disc threw in a reworked Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. While not a splendid soundfield, the film came with a moderately engaging mix.
Music exhibited acceptable stereo spread, and effects broadened on occasion. While a fair amount of the action felt fairly “centered”, the mix managed to spread out fairly well at times.
For instance, street and driving scenes offered a nice sense of movement, and those on the water expanded sonic horizons in a pleasing manner. A fireworks displayed boasted nice activity in the surrounds, too, While nothing here excelled, the soundscape felt engaging enough.
Audio quality was dated but fine. Dialogue showed a lot of looping, and some revoiced actors created minor distractions.
Those issues always existed, of course, so I couldn’t fault the Blu-ray for these choices. Despite some dull speech at times, the lines usually felt fairly natural, and they always remained intelligible.
Music lacked much range, but the score seemed reasonably lush, and effects followed suit. Though those elements didn’t betray a lot of real impact, they felt acceptably accurate and lacked notable distortion. Given the movie’s age, this was a more than adequate remix.
How did the 2020 “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray compare to the original 2012 Blu-ray? There’s a complicated topic.
As we look at audio, on one hand, the 2020 BD’s 5.1 mix worked much better than the 2012 disc’s 2.0 track. The former opened up matters in a more engaging manner and it showed superior sound quality.
On the other hand, the 2020 disc dropped the older platter’s monaural mix. While I like the 2020’s 5.1 track, I’d prefer to get the original mono.
Visuals offered additional concerns, as the 2020 BD mainly became a downgrade. On the positive side, the 2020 came with a cleaner print, as it lacked the 2012’s minor source flaws.
However, the 2020 seemed softer than the 2012 most of the time, and the potential noise reduction may’ve led to this. Some reports claim the 2020 lacks any grain, which isn’t correct, as grain remains apparent through much of the film.
However, it’s undeniable that we get less grain with the 2020 disc, which either means it used noise reduction or it came from a superior, less grainy source – or both.
I’d vote “or both”. As mentioned, the 2020 didn’t obliterate grain, so despite some hyperbole to the contrary, the 2020 didn’t become a polished and smoothed-out disgrace. I suspect a better source combined with some NR resulted in decreased grain – and decreased definition.
When I re-watched the 2012 disc, I also thought it came across as a bit overcranked and borderline hyper-sharp at times. While edge haloes didn’t dominate, I felt the image could feel amped up, with a certain impact that didn’t seem as film-like as it should.
This extended to colors as well. On the surface, the 2012’s hues seemed more impressive – and they were, as they leapt off the screen. But should they pack such an intense punch?
Maybe – I don’t claim strong enough knowledge of how the movie looked in 65 years ago to state how the film should/shouldn’t look.
Some changes came with inconclusive controversy, such as nighttime elements that brought a heavy green overtone on the 2012. These went with a more “standard” blue impression on the 2020, and it remained unclear which acted as the more accurate representation.
Ultimately, the 2012 remained the more pleasing visual presentation, its own concerns and all. As noted, the 2020 offered a watchable experience, as its flaws never became enough to damage the overall impression.
However, the 2012’s superior sharpness – potentially overcranked and all – made it the preferred choice. I suspect the ideal Thief would end up somewhere between these two, with improved delineation but less of an overdone feel. Unless/until that release exists, I’d opt for the 2012, its minor warts and all.
The 2020 Blu-ray loses most of the prior extras, though we re-encounter an audio commentary from film historian Dr. Drew Casper. He offers a running, screen-specific piece that looks at the source novel and its adaptation, filmmaking techniques and interpretation, cast and crew, elements of the era, movie trends and technical elements, how the flick fits into the Hitchcock oeuvre, shooting on location, and a mix of topics.
A veteran of many tracks of this sort, Casper knows his way around the format, and he also knows his Hitchcock. His comfort with commentaries becomes clear as he seems well-prepared and eager to impart his knowledge. Casper digs into Thief with gusto and provides an abundance of useful information in this consistently enjoyable chat.
Another extra from prior releases, Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly lasts six minutes, six seconds as it provides notes from film historian Richard Schickel and producer AC Lyles. They provide some basic notes about Grant and Kelly. This is too short a show to come to much, but it’s still enjoyable.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a new featurette. Filmmaker Focus runs seven minutes, 19 seconds and brings notes from film critic/historian Leonard Maltin.
Here we get info about Hitchcock’s career as well as general thoughts about Thief. Maltin provides a decent overview of the flick, but he doesn’t bring out a ton of insights.
As noted, the 2020 Blu-ray drops a slew of extras from the 2012 release. Why don’t these appear? I have no idea, but their absence turns into a perplexing – disappointment.
The duo of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly are as gorgeous as the backdrop of the French Riviera. While To Catch A Thief doesn’t rate as one of Hitchcock’s best efforts, it becomes an enjoyable romp nonetheless. The Blu-ray delivers inconsistent visuals as well as good audio and a few bonus materials. Though this turns into a decent depiction of the film itself, the picture concerns and the absence of pre-existing supplements means it can’t count as definitive.
To rate this film visit the original review of TO CATCH A THIEF