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STUDIO: Paramount Home Video
RATING: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
- Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper, Hitchcock historian
- A Night with the Hitchcocks featurette
- Unacceptable Under the Code: Film Censorship in America featurette
- Several “making of” featurettes
- Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation featurette
- Theatrical trailers
- Interactive travelogue
- Edith Head: The Paramount Years featurette
Hitchcock lightens up a bit with some help from Cary Grant and Grace Kelly
Cary Grant, Grace Kelly
John Robie (Grant), a former jewel thief known as “The Cat” just wants to live out his retirement in the hills of southern France without any troubles, but a new rash of burglaries all along the Cote d’Azure has the authorities looking at him as the culprit. To try and clear his name, Robie poses as an american lumber magnet and befriends wealthy mother and daughter in an attempt to catch a thief before he can steal their jewels.
I can’t say that I am the most learned Hitchcock fan on this site. I have seen many of his more high profile movies like Psycho and North by Northwest, but am still trying to catch up on his earlier works. But I do know enough about the man to understand that he was a master of crafting suspense films. Films like Psycho and Rope ratchet up the tension in perfect fashion and even after repeat viewings leave me agog at just how effective they as films.
But To Catch a Thief is a completely different Hitchcock from the one that made all those classic thrillers. Sure, the suspense elements like car chases and a fantastic cat and mouse finale that takes place amid the rooftops of southern France are there to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the whole catching the cat burglar thing could be considered the “MacGuffin” in this film. The real story is will Frances Stevens (Kelly), the daughter of the wealthy woman that is hoping to trap the jewel thief, catch Robie for herself.
Grant and Kelley are wonderful to watch onscreen. Hitchcock liked actors that could show up and hit their marks without much input from him, and in this film the two leads do much more than just fill a role. There is a lot of sizzle onscreen between Grant’s Robie and Kelly’s Francis Stevens. Their onscreen chemistry is aided by a script written by John Michael Hayes that strips the novel down to its bare bones and trades Hitchcock’s dark humor for sexy double entendres. It’s a risqué film for its time and a lot of the heat comes from Kelly’s romantic stalking of Robie the jewel thief.
Grant’s character wants to avoid a relationship with Frances at all costs, fearing that she will discover his true identity, but Frances plays a good cat and mouse game of her own with Robie. Thinking that he may not be the lumberyard owner he claims he is, and totally enamored by the possibilities of falling in love with a jewel thief, Frances relentlessly pushes Robie to fess up to being “the cat”. Kelly seems to relish the role of the woman who seems so proper in public, but once the lights are out and Robie and her are alone, has the ability to create fireworks. Actresses nowadays seem to relish parts that allow them to “go ugly” to play a complex role. Well, Grace Kelly never followed that train of thought and in the part of Frances, she gets to be gorgeous and extremely smart at the same time.
Grant, who had to be begged to come out of retirement by Hitchcock to take the part of Robie, does his usual fantastic job. He plays Robie as a man who isn’t ashamed of any crimes he committed, and just wants to catch this person who is posing as him so he can settle back down in his villa. Whether he is evading the police during a car chase, or stowing away on a boat to avoid capture by helicopter, he just exudes confidence and cool. In fact, it seems the only thing that gets him nervous is the advances of Frances.
While Hitch may have liked his actors to direct themselves for the most part, he was the auteur behind the camera. Working with his longtime crew, Hitchcock manages to weave the jewel thief storyline and the romance plot together cleverly, without either of them bogging down in the least. The scenery that he chose for the backdrop to his tale (the French Riviera) couldn’t have been shot more lavishly, and the costumes (designed by Edith Head) are on the grand scale of old Hollywood, especially Grace Kelly’s gold ball gown.
To Catch a Thief may not reach the status of a Hitchcock “masterpiece” and it is certainly not on the level of some of his other works mentioned above, but it is a very well crafted and snappy romance that never gets too serious and really showcases the talents and combined star power of Grant and Kelly.
Being that this is part of the Paramount Centennial collection, The transfer ( I am guessing it’s the same transfer as the one used for the 2007 DVD release) looks great. The colors are lush and vibrant, with no scratches or blemishes in sight.
There are a gaggle of extras on this two disc edition of To Catch a Thief; some good, some bad. One nice featurette is A Night with the Hitchcocks which condenses a Q&A between Hitchcock’s daughter and granddaughter and a crowd of film students. It is short but offers some nice insight to Hitchcock as a person. Also on the disc are a few “making of” featurettes about the making of the film which are interesting, but are tacked on from the 2007 special edition DVD release. Also carried over from the 2007 DVD is a short about costume designer Edith Head and another featurette about the fight between Hitchcock and the censor board over the film.
Included with the film is a new commentary track done by Dr. Drew Casper, a Hitchcock historian, which is heavy to say the least. Dr. Casper sees meaning in everything from opening credit sequences to the littlest tracking shot. Personally, I love a commentary track that gets this deep. I may not agree with everything that the good doctor is saying, but he does more than simply describe what I am seeing happen on the screen, so it gets extra points in my book. Rounding out the extras is an interactive map of all the shooting location in the film in case you would like to map a trip to the South of France for yourself. Would I buy it if I owned the 2007 edition? No, but if I didn’t have that one I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to pick this up.