To Catch a Thief (1955)

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Released 15-Jan-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Writing And Casting
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An Appreciation
Gallery-Photo And Poster Gallery
Featurette-Edith Head-The Paramount Years
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 102:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (77:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Cary Grant
Grace Kelly
John Williams
Brigitte Auber
Charles Vanel
Jean Martinelli
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Lyn Murray


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
German
English
Spanish
Greek
French
Hebrew
Croatian
Icelandic
Italian
Hungarian
Dutch
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Slovenian
Serbian
Finnish
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
German Titling
Spanish Titling
French Titling
Italian Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    John Robie (Cary Grant) is a retired burglar, specifically a cat burglar, with a reputation for stealing valuable jewels, known as "The Cat". Several recent incidents of theft that match the style of "The Cat" have brought the police to Robie's French Villa with suspicions that he has returned to his former ways. So, with limited time he has to prove his innocence and the only way to achieve this is to capture the real thief. He convinces Hughson (John Williams), the insurance company representative who is faced with paying out large sums of money every time there is a theft to help him by giving him a list of those that have valuable jewels to steal. He hatches a plan to use Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), a wealthy American as bait for the new "cat". Mrs. Stevens is in France hoping to catch a husband for her daughter Frances (Grace Kelly), although why this is necessary is a bit a mystery, as Frances is certainly not lacking any confidence nor is she lacking in the looks department, and in fact she wastes no time in pursuing Robie as he purses the thief..

    To Catch a Thief, while not one of Alfred Hitchcock's most suspenseful films, still provides entertaining viewing and is certainly a disc you must add to your collection if you are one of the director's fans. Where this film works best is with the witty dialogue and double entendres that are traded between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

    Grace Kelly and Cary Grant are two actors that Hitchcock used several times in his film-making career - he had a well-known liking for working with people he knew both in front of and behind the camera. Among other Hitchcock films, Cary Grant appears in North By Northwest and Grace Kelly in Rear Window, two films which are generally considered to be amongst the director's best works. In their respective roles in this film both do an admirable job with Grant as the suave ex-burglar with a glib tongue and Kelly as the sophisticated and intelligent single woman. There's also no lack of on-screen chemistry between the pair and this is one of the main attractions of the film.

    Just in case you are wondering, Hitch makes his obligatory appearance near the beginning of the film at 9:15 as a passenger in the bus sitting next to Cary Grant. He made an early appearance in all his later films so as not to distract the audience from the story.

    To Catch A Thief was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1965 including Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, wining the award for Best Cinematography. A viewing of the film will amply demonstrate why this was the case. Certainly the beautiful French Riviera locations in which the story is set didn't in any way hurt its chances.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer suffers from a couple of severe problems with both moire and edge enhancement. Other than this, it's not too bad particularly considering the film was made in 1955.

    The movie has been transferred to DVD with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This aspect ratio differs considerably from the original ratio of 1.66:1 which means that the top and bottom of the picture have been matted to achieve the ratio used for this transfer.

   The image is acceptably sharp and exhibits reasonable shadow detail although black objects tend always be completely solid and consequently devoid of any detail. There is no evidence of low level noise. Significant edge enhancement is noted occasionally, for example at 9:48.

    A full colour palette is utilised in this movie and except for the slightly dated appearance and perhaps skin tones that tend a bit too much towards brown it looks pretty nice on the screen. The transfer has certainly done justice to the scenic beauty of the south of France and it's not hard to image why this movie won the Academy Award for cinematography.

    There's a smattering of small marks and scratches present throughout the movie but these are generally not too bad considering the age of the film. There's also a couple of pale dots that appear almost continuously between 9:19 and 10:24 and again between 73:34 and 75:17. These move with the camera so I can only assume that they are the result of some dust or water on the lens. Additionally, faint film grain is visible at times. Fine aliasing is present in the usual types of places and is quite frequent. Moire is a significant and very distracting problem in this transfer during the first 30 minutes as both Cary Grant and Brigitte Auber both wear very French shirts that feature fine horizontal stripes. There's a really bad example of this at 17:20. No compression artefacts were noted.

    There's more subtitles on this disc then you can shake a stick at with no less than 29 options available. A 10 minute sample of both the English and English For The Hearing Impaired options showed these both to be less than word perfect with some changes to both words and phases but these changes were not significant enough to affect the story. The subtitles are displayed in easily readable white text at the bottom of the screen and are well timed.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring during Chapter 15, at 77:09. Despite occurring during a fade-to-black it is noticeable but really only minimally disruptive to the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As already mentioned, this is an old movie and the audio, while free of any significant defects, does exhibit an expected dated quality.

    I listened to the default Dolby Digital 2.0 English audio track. This is essentially a mono soundtrack with all the work being done by the front centre speaker. In addition, four other Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are present; Spanish, French, Italian and German.

    The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand and was free of any significant clip or pops. I wasn't aware of any problem as far as the audio sync was concerned.

    The musical score by Lyn Murray was successful in subtly emphasising both the humorous and suspenseful moments of the movie.

    The surrounds were completely silent, which is not such a surprise given the monaural nature of the soundtrack

    From my listening position I wasn't aware of any contribution from the subwoofer, but then there was really no contribution it needed to make given the nature of the story.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A nice selection of very reasonable extras has been provided.

Menu

    The menu is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. It features some nice animation which is based on several clips from the film as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Featurette-Writing And Casting (9:04)

    This features interviews with Pat Hitchcock and Mary Stone, respectively the director's daughter and granddaughter in case you didn't know, as well as Steven DeRosa, author of Writing With Hitchcock. Displayed at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Featurette-Making Of To Catch A Thief (16:54)

    A fairly typical "making of" with interviews with Hitch's daughter and granddaughter as well as others involved in the production linked together with clips from the movie. It deals, amongst other issues, with the choice of shooting locations, costuming, and editing. It is presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Featurette-Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An Appreciation (7:32)

    More interviews which include some of Hitch's home movies and a couple of humorous anecdotes. This really gives some insight into the personal life of Hitch away from the movie set. Presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Gallery-Photo And Poster Gallery (7:05)

    A sequence of still photographs, mostly in black and white, of  the actors and crew as well as advertising posters for the film in various languages. This is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Featurette-Edith Head-The Paramount Years (13:43)

    Edith Head, who designed the costumes for this film, was a costume designer in Hollywood for 60 years and won no less than 8 Academy Awards. This featurette is both a biography and a tribute to her work. Displayed at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    A typical trailer of the time with lots of dramatic music and an equally dramatic voice-over. This is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Except for additional subtitle and audio language options provided on the Region 4 disc, our local disc is identically featured to that available in Region 1.

Summary

    To Catch A Thief is a good movie from one of the all-time great thriller directors and is a disc that must be included in any collection of Hitchcock's work.

    The video quality is good considering the movie's age but suffers from excessive edge enhancement and a significant amount of moire.

    The audio quality is good given the age of the movie.

    There's a nice selection of very satisfactory extras included.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

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