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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 Dolby Surround 2.0
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 5/8/2007

• Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and DVD Producer Laurent Bouzereau
• “Writing and Casting of To Catch A Thief” Featurette
• “The Making Of To Catch A Thief
• “Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief - An Appreciation” Featurette
• “Edith Head - The Paramount Years” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer


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To Catch a Thief: Special Collector's Edition (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 B/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

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.

Sharpness usually seemed solid. A few wide shots suffered from slight softness, but those instances occurred infrequently. The majority of the flick provided nice delineation. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, and both edge haloes and source flaws stayed minor. Outside of a couple of specks, this was a clean transfer.

Despite some minor issues, colors usually appeared excellent. Flesh tones showed the oddest hues, as they tended to be a little too brown and flat. However, other hues worked very well, as the movie exhibited a bright, varied palette with a lot of dynamic tones. 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 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 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.

How did the picture and audio of this 2007 “Special Collector’s Edition” compare to those of the original DVD from 2002? I thought the soundtracks were a wash. The old disc included just the mono mix and lacked this one’s surround audio, but I thought they were similar enough that I didn’t really prefer one over the other.

On the other hand, the visuals for the 2007 DVD presented a radically improved transfer. The 2002 disc suffered from many problems, with prominent edge enhancement and lots of source flaws standing as the most significant. The 2007 transfer looked considerably better. Honestly, it was a night and day difference, as the new disc made the old one seem unwatchable.

For this “Special Collector’s Edition” of To Catch a Thief, we get a mix of new and (mostly) old extras. In the “new” category, we locate an audio commentary from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They chat about story, themes and connections to other Hitchcock works, how the flick fits within his legacy, cast and crew, various styles and technical elements, the movie’s reception, and a few other thoughts about Hitchcock, Cary Grant and those involved.

While we learn quite a bit about Thief and connected elements, I don’t think this turns into an above average commentary. My main complaint comes from Bogdanovich’s presence, as he seems somewhat full of himself. He offers the usual annoying impersonations we find in all his interviews, and he often makes these discussions feel more like they’re about him than the subjects at hand. I like the content in general, at least, so there’s a fair amount of good info on display here.

All the remaining extras also appeared on the 2002 DVD. 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.

We also get the movie’s trailer. This 2007 DVD drops the picture gallery found on the original 2002 release.

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 moderately involving set of extras. This is a pretty nice release for a fun movie.

I recommend this “Special Collector’s Edition” release of Thief for all Hitchcock, fans, and that goes for the ones who already own the original DVD from 2002. The new disc doesn’t improve audio, but it comes with a decent audio commentary and – more importantly – offers a tremendous step up in picture quality. Combine those factors with a cheap list price of less than $15 and the 2007 Thief DVD is a steal.

To rate this film visit the original review of TO CATCH A THIEF

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main