To Catch a Thief: Centennial Collection – DVD Review

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Paramount gives us the sixth installment in their Centennial Collection: Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. This may frustrate some, as the studio released a special edition of TCAT some two years ago. But this release isn’t a rehash. There are new extras and improved video. Does that sound worthy of a double-dip?

As stated time and time again, Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense. To Catch a Thief, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, is easily one of his finest. It’s no surprise in the chemistry Grant and Kelly share, since both have appeared in a number of Hitchcock’s works.

Grant plays John Robie, a retired jewel thief known as “The Cat” who is wanted by the police because a copycat has started using his MO. Knowing no one will believe him, Robie takes it upon himself to find this thief and clear his name. To do this he changes his name and starts hanging around the French Riviera where he meets young rich American Frances Stevens (Kelly) and her mother Jessie (Jessie Royce Landis).

Much to his surprise, Frances knows who Robie really is but this doesn’t bother her. His adventurous past excites her; that is until her mother’s jewels are stolen.

This is a perfect Hitchcock film filled with suspense, humor, beautiful, Academy Award-winning cinematography and quick, witty dialogue. It also contains Hitchcock’s favorite: the MacGuffin. The film’s title leads us to believe the film is about Robie trying to catch the copycat and clear his name; but really the film is about Frances seducing and ultimately catching Robie.

Cary Grant has a film presence rarely seen today and is always a joy to watch. Match that with the stunning Grace Kelly and the sexual tension between them on screen is timeless. Much of the dialogue in To Catch a Thief was borderline obscene at the time but is very tame by today’s standards.

The film was shot in Paramount’s newest advancement in filmmaking, VistaVision, which was their answer to 20th Century Fox’s Cinemascope. Such advancement in technology gives us a breathtaking look at France, where some of the production took place, as if Grants and Kelly’s faces aren’t enough to stare at. This film is one of the reasons to embrace the medium; it has everything a film lover could want.

The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 and mono. Also with French and Spanish language tracks and English, French and Spanish subtitles. This is a beautiful film with stunning cinematography and it’s presented wonderfully on this DVD.

Disc 1:

Audio Commentary with Hitchcock Film Historian Dr. Drew Casper: Frankly I think the commentary on the Special Collector’s Edition from two years ago with Peter Bogdonavich and Laurent Bouzereau is better than this one. For this new track, Casper reads way too much into every nuance making you feel like you’re sitting in a boring film class. He makes you feel like you’re going to have to write a paper afterwards. Also, his voice is kind of annoying. Getting all the way through this one was tough.

Disc 2:

A Night With The Hitchcocks: (23 min.) A Q&A with Alfred’s daughter and granddaughter at USC. This is pretty interesting getting his families insight on his life and career. Though so really stupid questions are asked as well.

Unacceptable Under The Code: Film Censorship in America: (11 min.) An interesting look at Censorship in early cinema and how Hitchcock, like many filmmakers at the time, pushed the limits as much as he could with his dialog and the classic fireworks scene.

*Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief: (9 min) This is a good featurette about just what is says. Good interviews and insight to these aspects of the film.

*The Making Of To Catch a Thief: (17 min) Pretty typical making-of but since this is such a fantastic film it’s still interesting viewing.

Behind The Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly: (6 min) More on these two stars and how this was Grant’s comeback to film and how this one of Kelly’s last films. It also talks about their star power and presence, on and off screen.

*Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation: (7 min) Hitchcock’s daughter and granddaughter talk more about the film and the man.

*Edith Head: The Paramount Years: (13 min) A great piece about the amazing costume designer. A short history of her life and career with great interviews.

If You Love To Catch A Thief, You’ll Love This Interactive Travelogue: (6 min) After a one minute intro to get a map of Southern France with a couple different place to click on giving a total of six 30-45 second bits about the location and how it was used in the film. Interesting but a little annoying to navigate.

Original Theatrical Trailer

Galleries

*These extras were on the Special Collector’s Edition released two years ago.

There is no denying that To Catch a Thief is essential Hitchcock, but if you already knew that then you probably bought the special edition two years ago. Are the new commentary track and two new extras worth double dipping? That’s up to you. However if you haven’t picked this one up yet for whatever reason, this is a great catch!

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Paramount presents To Catch A Thief: Centennial Collection. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Written by John Michael Hayes. Based on the novel by David Dodge. Originally Released in 1955. Running time: 106 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: March 24, 2009. Available at Amazon.com.

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