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. Only a few concerns manifested themselves here, as the transfer usually seemed quite good.
Overall, the flick looked quite good. Sharpness usually seemed solid. A few wide shots suffered from slight softness, a factor influenced by some mild edge haloes. Nonetheless, those instances occurred infrequently, as the majority of the flick provided nice delineation. I saw no jagged edges and shimmering wasn’t a problem despite the presence of some striped shirts in the first act. Source flaws stayed very minor; outside of a couple of specks, this was a clean transfer.
Colors usually appeared excellent. The movie exhibited a bright, varied palette with a lot of dynamic tones. Truly, the hues popped off the screen on many occasions.
Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows showed good clarity and delineation. I did think the green tint given to “day for night” shots seemed odd, however. The mix of ups and downs favored the ups, and given the movie’s age, I thought Thief deserved a “B+” for visuals. In fact, it’s good enough that it bordered on “A-“; without the edge haloes and mild softness, I might’ve gone with the higher grade.
In addition to the movie’s original monaural audio, the DVD throws in a remixed Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack. And a pretty lackluster one at that, as it only occasionally managed to provide sense of environment with much detail. This was basically one of those “broad mono” affairs. Although it gave us audio from the side and rear speakers, those elements often failed to bring anything distinctive to the movie. A few moderately positive instances occurred, such as when Robie and Danielle rode on a boat; those scenes opened up to present a fair feeling for the sea. For the most part, though, the ambience appeared less than convincing.
Audio quality was dated but decent. Low-end heft essentially 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. This became especially distracting when Bertani (Charles Vanel) jumped between French and English; Vanel did the French himself, so those lines sounded natural, but the dubbed English came across as awkward and failed to match the mouth movements. All of this added up to a pretty mediocre soundtrack.
How did the picture and audio of this 2009 “Centennial Collection” edition” compare to those of the Special Edition DVD from 2007? I thought audio seemed virtually identical, while the visuals demonstrated mild improvements. The CC offered a little stronger definition, and the colors looked a bit more accurate as well; for instance, the slightly muddy skin tones tightened up here. This wasn’t a huge improvement, but the CC was the more attractive picture of the two.
In terms of extras, this “Centennial Collection Edition” mixes new components and elements from the 2007 SE. I’ll note 2009 exclusives with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, that means the component also appeared on the old disc.
On DVD One, we find 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.
On DVD Two, we find seven featurettes. *A Night with the Hitchcocks goes for 23 minutes, 20 seconds and presents a November 2008 Q&A. Hosted by Casper, it features Alfred Hitchcock’s granddaughter Mary Stone and daughter Pat Hitchcock as they go through audience questions. (USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley also offers a few introductory remarks.) They chat about aspects of Hitchcock’s career and his personal life. The latter side of things proves the most interesting, as we find some nice insights into the private Hitchcock. There’s nothing revelatory on display, but the show offers good notes.
For a look at pressures put on filmmakers, we go to the 11-minute and 47-second *Unacceptable Under the Code: Film Censorship in America. It features Casper, USC Professor of American Film Dr. Richard Jewell, and former Writers Guild of America president Del Reisman. They offer a quick history of movie censorship as well as notes about Hitchcock’s attempts to skirt the Production Code for Thief. Despite its brevity, the program packs a lot of good information. I wish it ran longer, as this is a rich subject, but “Code” does very well for itself.
Next comes *Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. It lasts six minutes, 12 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 comes to much, but it’s still enjoyable.
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.
We also get the movie’s trailer and a collection of *Galleries. Those break down into “The Movie” (33 images), “Publicity” (11), “Visitors to the Set” (14), “Production Part 1” (32) and “Production Part 2” (40). All are interesting, though I like “Visitors” the best.
An unusual component arrives with *If You Love To Catch a Thief, You’ll Love This, an “interactive travelogue”. After a 57-second introduction, we can learn a little more about the locations featured in the film. We see shots from the film and then get basic details about the French areas. It’s a neat little take on the locations.
Finally, the set includes a *booklet. The eight-page piece provides some short production notes and a few photos. It’s not memorable but it’s a nice way to finish the set.
Does the “Centennial Collection” release lose anything from the 2007 Special Edition? Yes – it drops an audio commentary from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau. Though Bogdanovich can be a little annoying at times, the track provided some pretty good content, so it’s too bad it doesn’t reappear here. I prefer the Casper commentary on this set, but I think it’s a shame we don’t get the best of both worlds.
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 was an enjoyable romp nonetheless. The DVD offers very good picture, average audio and a fine set of extras. This is a pretty nice release for a fun movie.
I recommend this “Centennial Collection” release of Thief for all Hitchcock fans, but I’m not sure it merits a “double-dip” for the folks who already purchased the 2007 Special Edition. Does it improve on that release? Yes, as it offers superior picture quality and more extras. However, it doesn’t blow away the old set, and it retails for $10 more. It may be a bit much to ask fans to drop another $25 – or whatever the CC costs after discounts – for this package’s moderate improvements.
To rate this film visit the original review of TO CATCH A THIEF