Monday, 7 May 2012

“To Catch A Thief”. A Review Of The 1955 Film Now Reissued on BLU RAY With A Fully Restored Print In 2012.


"…Your Terms Are Generous…My Terms Usually Are…"

When 1955's "To Catch A Thief" was relaunched on DVD back in 2007 with a full frame-by-frame Lowry Digital Restoration (the company is now known as Reliance MediaWorks) – fans of the film were quietly blown away by the work done on the print. Like "North By Northwest" (that other great Hitchcock/Grant collaboration cleaned up by the same much-praised process) - "Catch" looked stupendous - beautifully clean vibrant colour - and it came with a nice slew of new complimentary extras.

This 2012 BLU RAY reissue of it is no different - a truly gorgeous looking film finally given the format it deserves. In fact there are moments in this transfer that must surely rate as BLU RAY 'restoration benchmarks' – the clean up seeing Robert Burks' original colour cinematography shine like a diamond. Burks and his team (who had framed "Rear Window" for Hitch the year before) pulled an Oscar for their work on "To Catch A Thief" - and would go on to provide Hitchcock with the same filmic magic on "Vertigo" (1958), "North By Northwest" (1959), "The Birds" (1963) and "Marnie" (1964).

"To Catch A Thief" is presently an American issue on BLU RAY (Paramount 14637) but it's due in the UK in July 2012. If you can't wait and want the US version – the good news is that it's NOT REGION-CODED so it'll play in all players. It comes in a card wrap sleeve (which the British issue won't) and features a full compliment of extras including a few new bits over the 2007 DVD issue (see list below).

The film itself is the stuff of legend - a testament to clever scriptwriting, Director grit, meticulous planning and sheer leading man and woman starpower. Battling censorship groups and prudish bosses – Hitch used his brilliant scriptwriter JOHN MICHAEL HAYES to adapt David Dodge's book and construct a screenplay positively bristling with salacious suggestion. For this he needed sex – or more accurately - implied sex. So we get lines like "What you need is two weeks with a good man in Niagara Falls…" (a famous Honeymoon destination of the time where newlyweds rarely left their chalets) or Grace Kelly offering Cary Grant some chicken from the picnic basket "You want a leg of a breast?" Cary smirks and gives the perfect double-entendre reply. "You make the choice…"

Even something as innocuous to us now as sunbathing on a sandy beach was fraught with moral degradation then. The powers-that-be feared bikinis - so Hitch had Grace wear a full bathing suit to get around their protestations. BUT when he came to shoot the scene, she sexily rubs in suntan oil into her elegant bare arms. You don’t notice her passion-killer swimsuit much after that. Or even when they eventually kiss in the darkened bedroom towards the end – it cuts to fireworks in the background to suggest explosions of a more human kind. And yet precisely because both the writer and Hitch had to be so devious – the film is so much better for it. "To Catch A Thief" may be considered by some to be lightweight Hitchcock – but it's bloody entertaining fluff and was hugely racy for its time. Alfred Hitchcock knew that suggestion was more potent than showing – and his audience had a far more active imagination that any Committee of Impeccable Moral Turpitude.

Hitchcock also loved his leading ladies – and few came more gobsmacking than Grace Kelly. Beautiful, sophisticated and (like her name) graceful in every way – she was the very epitome of Golden-Girl Fifties chic. What most hadn’t expected however was that underneath all the glacial glamour lurked an out-an-out sexpot (she apparently devoured men in real life and of course married an actual Prince a year later). So combined with the legendary Hollywood costumer Edith Head – and the loaded lines – you got the gorgeous Grace Kelly both looking and sounding ravishing.

Then of course came Hitchcock's other weapon of choice – the debonair Cary Grant. Cary plays John Robie - a retired jewel thief and burglar of 15-years affectionately known as "The Cat" because of his acts of agility when making house withdrawals. Someone who knows his methods starts robbing jewels from richj ladies elsewhere and it isn’t long before the finger of blame comes calling to Robie's retirement home in the hills. Robie must go to Cannes (where the robberies are) – and confront some of his old 'Resistance' mates even if some want him dead - a thief sent 'to catch a thief'. And on the story goes… Grant was 50 at the time and Kelly 25 (even then a rising star) – yet they seemed so completely believable as a couple. The film was a huge hit with the public largely due to the great script and their explosive chemistry…

Comedy was provided by Jessie Royce Landis as the meddling mother and the gamine French actress Brigitte Auber played the other possible love interest - the wilful Danielle – who has a soft spot for the suave John Robie. Solid dependable accomplice is played by John Williams, a Lloyds of London Insurance agent willing to give Robie what the information he needs if he gets his clients stolen jewels back. And all of it leads to a rooftop finale in the dark with a clever twist in its rather elegant tail…

BLU RAY highlights include the market and flowers sequence – Kelly walking through the Hotel corridors in knockout off the shoulder dresses – Grant in the water by the pontoon – Robie trying to explain his innocence to the Chief of Police (Charles Varnell couldn’t speak good English so you will notice that his entire performance is overdubbed) - and many more. Even the opening sequence that focuses on the window of a travel agent is gorgeous.

To sum up – if you're a fan and the old soft machine flutters at the thought of "To Catch A Thief" and its delicious naughtiness – then you must own it on BLU RAY.

As Elin said on the 18th fairway - is that a Redwood in your trousers Tiger – or are you just pleased to see me? Oh stop it…

BLU RAY Specifications:
PICTURE: 1080p High Definition (Full Frame)
AUDIO: English 2.0 Stereo Dolby TrueHD, English Mono Dolby TrueHD, French Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital, Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital
SUBTITLES: English, English SDH (Deaf And Hard Of Hearing), French, Spanish and Portuguese

1. Feature-Length Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper – Hitchcock Film Historian
2. A Night With The Hitchcocks (Drew Casper introduces Patricia Hitchcock (his daughter) and her daughter Mary Stone to an audience of film students in Nov 2008 to discuss their father and grandfather’s movies) (23 minutes) ** NEW **
3. Unacceptable Under The Code: Film Censorship in Hollywood (discusses how movies were made in such repressive times – 12 minutes) **NEW**
4. Writing And Casting To Catch A Thief (9 minutes)
5. The Making of To Catch A Thief 
6. Behind The Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (6 minutes)
7. Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An Appreciation (Home movies of Hitch and family – 7:30 minutes)
8. Edith Head: The Paramount Years (14 minutes on the legendary costumer)
9. If You Love To Catch A Thief – You’ll Love This Interactive Travelogue (a map of Southern France allows you to pick out the villas and locations used in the film)
10. Theatrical Trailer
11. Galleries

PS: Hitchcock's "The Birds" is due later in 2012 - fully restored - and part of Universal's "100th Anniversary" celebrations - see my review for "To Kill A Mockingbird"

PPS: for other superb BLU RAY reissues (including full restorations) - see also my reviews for:
"The Italian Job", "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner", "North By Northwest", "Cool Hand Luke", "The Dambusters", "The Prisoner - The Complete (UK TV) Series In High Definition", "Braveheart", "Snatch", "The Ladykillers", "The African Queen", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", "Back To The Future Trilogy", "Brief Encounter", “The Blues Brothers”, “All Quiet On The Western Front”, “To Kill A Mockingbird” and "Kelly's Heroes"


LOWRY DIGITAL Restorations and Transfers onto DVD and BLU RAY
Lowry is famously associated with Disney and James Bond (see separate lists below), Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark
As of 2008 the company is now known as "Reliance MediaWorks" incorporating Lowry Digital (founder JOHN D. LOWRY died in January 2012)


CLASSIC FILMS (1921 to 1989)
The Absent-Minded Professor (Disney, 1961)
Alice In Wonderland (Disney, 1951)
Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
Aliens (1986, James Cameron)
All About Eve (1950)
All The President's Men (1976)
Anatomy Of A Murder (Hitchcock, 1959)
Bambi (Disney, 1942)
The Black Cauldron (Disney, 1985) 
The Black Hole (Disney, 1979)
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
Brief Encounter (1946)
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)
Captain From Castile (1947, Tyrone Power)
Carmen Jones (1954, Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte)
Casablanca (1942)
The China Syndrome (1979)
Chinatown (1974)
Cinderella (Disney, 1950)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Clear And Present Danger (1994)
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
The Cookie Carnival (1935)
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond, 1971)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Dr. No (James Bond, 1962
Dumbo (Disney, 1941)
The Egyptian (1954, Victor Mature and Jean Simmons)
Fantasia (Disney, 1940)
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Flashdance (1983)
Footloose (1984)
The Fox And The Hound (Disney, 1981)
From Russia With Love (James Bond, 1963)
Funny Face (Audrey Hepburn, 1957)
Gaslight (1944)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, 1953)
The Ghoul (1933)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather, Part II (1974)
Goldfinger (James Bond, 1964)
Gone With The Wind (1939)
Grease (1978)
The Great Race (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, 1965)
Henry V (1889)
How To Marry A Millionaire (Marilyn Monroe, 1953)
Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989) [Indiana Jones 1st film - see "Raiders..."]
Ice Castles (1979)
The In-Laws (1979)
It's A Wonderful Life (James Stewart, 1946)
The Jungle Book (Disney, 1967)
The Keep (1983)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Lady And The Tramp (Disney, 1955)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Leave Her To Heaven (Gene Tierney, 1945)
Licence To Kill (James Bond, 1989)
The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)
Little Women (1933)
The Little Mermaid (Disney, 1989)
The Living Daylights (James Bond, 1987)
The Love Bug (Disney, 1968)
Madeleine (1950)
Manhatta (1921)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (James Stewart, 1962)
The Man With The Golden Gun (James Bond, 1974)
Mary Poppins (Disney, 1964)
The Mercenary (1968)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Moonraker (James Bond, 1979)
The Natural (Robert Redford, 1984)
Niagara (Marilyn Monroe, 1953)
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
North By Northwest (1958)
Now, Voyager (1942)
Octopussy (James Bond, 1983)
An Officer And A Gentleman (1982)
Old Yeller (Disney, 1957)
Oliver & Company (Disney, 1987)
Oliver Twist (1948)
Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
101 Dalmatians (Disney, 1961)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (James Bond, 1969)
The Parent Trap (Disney, Hayley Mills original, 1961)
The Passionate Friends (1949)
Peter Pan (Disney, 1953)
Pinocchio (Disney, 1940)
Pollyanna (Disney, 1960)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1973)
Prizzi's Honor (1985)
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981 - Indiana Jones 1st film)
Rashomon (1950)
Rear Window (1954)
Robin Hood (Disney, 1973)
The Rescuers (Disney, 1977)
The Robe (Richard Burton and Jean Simmons, 1953)
Roman Holiday (Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, 1953)
Sabotage (1936)
Sabrina (Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, 1954)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
The Scarlett Pimpernel (1934)
The Seven Year Itch (Marilyn Monroe, 1955)
Singin' In The Rain (1952)
Sleeping Beauty (Disney, 1959)
The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond, 1977)
Stagecoach (1939)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek VI: The Voyage Home (1986)
Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) (1977)
Star Wars Episode V; The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars Episode VI; Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Sunset Boulevard (1952)
The Ten Commandments (1956)
The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984)
This Happy Breed (1944)
Thunderball (James Bond, 1965)
THX 1138 (1971)
To Catch A Thief (1955)
Top Gun (1986)
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)
A View To A Kill (James Bond, 1985)
Young And Innocent (1937)
You Can't Take It With You (Frank Capra Director - James Stewart, 1938)
You Only Live Twice (James Bond, 1967)

MODERN FILMS (1990 to 2012)
Aladdin (Disney, 1992)
Almost Famous (2000)
Aliens Of The Deep (2005)
American Psycho (2000)
Assault On Precinct 13 (2005 Remake)
The A-Team (2010)
Avatar (2009)
Beauty And The Beast (Disney, 1991)
Big Momma's House 3 (2010)
The Black Swan (2010)
Born Too Soon (1993)
Bridge To Terabithia (2007)
Cedar Rapids (2011)
Coraline (2009)
The Country Bears (Disney, 2002)
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Die Another Day (James Bond, 2002)
Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
Face/Off (1997)
Fantasia 2000 (Disney, 1999)
Fast And Furious 4 (2009)
Fight Club (1999)
Flipped (2010)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Fright Night (2011 Remake)
George Of The Jungle (Disney, 1997)
The Godfather, Part III (1990)
Goldeneye (James Bond, 1995)
Hall Pass (2011)
The Hangover II (2011)
Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle ((2004)
The Hunt For Red October (1990)
How Do You Know (2010)
Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 3D (2008)
Justin Beiber: Never Say Never (2011)
King Arthur (2004)
The Lion King (Disney, 1994)
Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Lord Of The Rings" Return Of The King (2003)
Miami Vice (2006)
National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002)
Night Of The Living Dead
Open Range (2003)
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Patriot Games (1992)
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
The Preacher's Wife (1996)
Public Enemies (2009)
Real Steel (2011)
The Rescuers Down Under (Disney, 1990)
Rudy (1993)
Rush Hour (1998)
Rush Hour 2 (2001)
Saw 3D - The Final Chapter (2010)
Se7en (1995)
Shark Night 3D (2011)
Shutter Island (2010)
The Social Network (2010)
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (2002)
Step Up 3D (Disney/Touchstone 2010)
Titanic (1997) (2012 Blu Ray Release)
Titanic in 3D (2012)
Tomorrow Never Dies (James Bond, 1997)
Transformers - Dark Of The Moon 3D (2011)
The Tree Of Life (2011)
True Lies (1994)
The Truman Show (1998)
U2 3D (IMAX Presentation) (2008)
Winnie The Pooh (Disney, 2011)
Worlds Apart (2008)
The World Is Not Enough (James Bond, 1999)
X Games 3D: The Movie (2009)
X-Men (2000)
Yogi Bear (2010)
Zodiac (2007)

Dr. No (James Bond, Sean Connery, 1962)
From Russia With Love (James Bond, Sean Connery, 1963)
Goldfinger (James Bond, Sean Connery, 1964)
Thunderball (James Bond, Sean Connery, 1965)
You Only Live Twice (James Bond, Sean Connery, 1967)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (James Bond, George Lazenby, 1969)
Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond, Sean Connery, 1971)
Live And Let Die (James Bond, Roger Moore, 1973)
The Man With The Golden Gun (James Bond, Roger Moore, 1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond, Roger Moore, 1977)
Moonraker (James Bond, Roger Moore, 1979)
Octopussy (James Bond, Roger Moore, 1983)
A View To A Kill (James Bond, Roger Moore, 1985)
The Living Daylights (James Bond, Timothy Dalton, 1987)
Licence To Kill (James Bond, Timothy Dalton, 1989)
Goldeneye (James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, 1995)
Tomorrow Never Dies (James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, 1997)
The World Is Not Enough (James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, 1999)
Die Another Day (James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, 2002)

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Pinocchio (Disney, 1940)
Fantasia (Disney, 1940)
Dumbo (Disney, 1941)
Bambi (Disney, 1942)
Cinderella (Disney, 1950)
Alice In Wonderland (Disney, 1951)
Peter Pan (Disney, 1953)
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)
Lady And The Tramp (Disney, 1955)
Old Yeller (Disney, 1957)
Sleeping Beauty (Disney, 1959)
Pollyanna (Disney, 1960)
101 Dalmatians (Disney, 1961)
The Absent-Minded Professor (Disney, 1961)
The Parent Trap (Disney, Hayley Mills original, 1961)
Mary Poppins (Disney, 1964)
The Jungle Book (Disney, 1967)
The Love Bug (Disney, 1968)
Robin Hood (Disney, 1973)
The Rescuers (Disney, 1977)
The Black Hole (Disney, 1979)
The Fox And The Hound (Disney, 1981)
The Black Cauldron (Disney, 1985) 
Oliver & Company (Disney, 1987)
The Little Mermaid (Disney, 1989)
Beauty And The Beast (Disney, 1991)
Aladdin (Disney, 1992)
The Lion King (Disney, 1994)
George Of The Jungle (Disney, 1997)
Fantasia 2000 (Disney, 1999)
The Country Bears (Disney, 2002)
Step Up 3D (Disney/Touchstone, 2010)
Winnie The Pooh (Disney, 2011)

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