Thief (1981)

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Released 12-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 117:43
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Mann

Starring James Caan
Tuesday Weld
Willie Nelson
James Belushi
Robert Prosky
Tom Signorelli
Dennis Farina
Nick Nickeas
W.R. Brown
Norm Tobin
John Santucci
Gavin MacFadyen
Chuck Adamson
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Christopher Franke
Edgar Froese
Craig Safan

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    By day, Frank (James Caan) is a car salesman. By night, he is a professional jewel thief. After spending many years in prison, he has a plan to make enough money that he can get out of the game, settle down with a wife and have a family. He is currently courting Jessie (Tuesday Weld), a waitress, who doesn't know what he does for a living.

    After an intricate and detailed heist which we see at the start of the film, Frank hands the takings over to Gags, a fence who arranges the jewels to be traded for cash. But before Frank's partner Jim Belushi can meet Gags to get the cash, Gags takes a tumble from a window and the cash goes missing. Frank finds out who took the money and gives them sufficient reason to return it, whereupon he meets Leo (Robert Prosky) the local crime boss, who wants Frank to work for him. Frank eventually decides to work for Leo on his own terms, just to make enough money to put an end to his thieving career. But Leo has other plans for Frank. So do the crooked cops who want a piece of the action.

    This was the first feature film directed by Michael Mann, and it is a stylish looking film noir. Although not of the calibre of his later films, most of which apart from Manhunter are overrated in my opinion, this is an enjoyable film with some exciting scenes and some good performances. Robert Prosky is exceptionally nasty as the crime boss, and even Willie Nelson scores as a dying master thief whom Frank knew in gaol. Tuesday Weld gives fine support as Jessie, and James Caan tones down his usual mannerisms.

    An entertaining film, but not one that you would want to watch over and over again unless you are a devotee of the director.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp despite the lack of widescreen enhancement. Detail is okay but not as good as it should have been. Shadow detail is not very good, and this is particularly a problem given that much of the film takes place in low light levels.

    Colour is satisfactory. Much of the film has a muted look with little in the way of bright colours anyway.

    Film to video artefacts include aliasing, which is present in most scenes, and a lot of edges are jagged instead of straight. Most distressingly though there is considerable telecine wobble, which appears throughout the film, and some judder. This is exacerbated when the image is zoomed to fill a 16x9 screen, so people with large displays should be wary.

    There are not so many film artefacts, limited to dirt and nicks and nothing else of note.

    Subtitles are provided in English, and seem quite readable and accurate to the dialogue. However, if the subtitles wrap to a second line, that line cannot be seen if you have zoomed the image to fit a 16x9 TV.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change at 61:20. This is positioned mid-scene, not on a cut, and is thus quite disruptive. Even worse, it took nearly a second to negotiate the change on my player.

    Overall, this transfer is not much better than VHS.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio channel is English Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Dialogue is clear most of the time, even though it is set at a low level in relation to the rest of the audio mix. Surround encoding is present. In Pro Logic mode some of the effects and music are directed to the rear channels, but even so most of the audio action happens across the front speakers. The subwoofer also kicks into life during musical sequences.

    During some of the louder passages there is some notable distortion of the sound, such as the music played by the band in the nightclub where Frank arrives two hours late for a date with Jessie.

    The music score is by Tangerine Dream, and was quite familiar to me as I once owned the LP of the soundtrack. The electronic score is quite effective even though it draws attention to itself, which I think was intentional.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

    This is a fairly ordinary trailer for the film, which makes it look like a million other thrillers.

R4 vs R1

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

    The US Region 1 release has some deleted scenes restored to the feature, an audio commentary by the director and star, and a 5.1 remix of the audio. However it does not have 16x9 enhancement either.

    The UK Region 2 appears to be the same as the Region 4.

    The Region 1 appears to be the clear winner, even though it is not an ideal edition either.


    A good film from Michael Mann, this one is worth watching but whether you would want to own it is a moot point.

    The video quality suffers from several problems, including the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    The audio quality is okay apart from some distortion.

    The sole extra is a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
More MGM waste of time - TonyG