The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.85:1, non 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1968 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Norman Jewison (Director)
Running Time
97:45 minutes
(not 102 minutes as stated on packaging) 
Other Extras Booklet
Main Menu Audio and Animation
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (58:59)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Norman Jewison

Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Steve McQueen
Faye Dunaway 
Paul Burke 
Jack Weston
Case Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Michel Legrand

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 320 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 320 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 320 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 320 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 320 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 320 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits
Yes, in credits

Plot Synopsis

    Michael D passed the comment that the theatrical trailer for The Thomas Crown Affair was priceless, when gathering the technical specifications for this DVD. After watching the film, I have to say the whole film is priceless, and for all the wrong reasons really. This is so sixties that it is almost laughably put together when viewed over thirty years later. This is definitely a product of its era, and when taken out of its era has a hard time being taken too seriously. From the start from what Norman Jewison indicates is a rather brief screenplay, through some rather experimental multiple screen techniques and some other rather dubious film techniques, coupled to an atrociously dated musical score, there is a lot about this film that has not aged at all well.

    Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) is a wealthy businessman in Boston, with more time on his hands than is good for him. Looking for a thrill in his life, since he has everything money can buy, he organizes a rather successful robbery of the Boston Mercantile Bank. So well is the caper planned and executed, with none of the participants really knowing who they are working for and with, that the Boston Police, led by Eddy Malone (Paul Burke), have no clue at all as to who undertook the heist. Enter one Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway), a beautiful insurance investigator who is brought in to track down the perpetrator of the heist. On all sorts of flimsy evidence and supposition, she pings Crown as the perpetrator and sets out to nail him - unfortunately complicating the situation is the fact that she falls in love with the guy. But she sticks to her guns, and nails him for the crime, when (and whereupon) he organizes a second robbery, just for the hell of it.

    This is not an especially convoluted story, and as Norman Jewison himself says, this really was attempting to put style before content. Suffice to say, he succeeded admirably, although this is part of the reason why the film has not aged well. Steve McQueen, in something of a change of pace for him, is not altogether convincing in the lead, but such is his charisma that you would not notice it. Faye Dunaway is no less successful as the investigator, although the romantic subplot did not exactly convince me too much. Paul Burke nails the told you so, but clueless, cop to a tee, and basically these three carry the whole film. Not especially well-filmed in my view, and Norman Jewison tried a few too many things that really did not come off too well, but overall this is not an especially great film - the pace is a little languid, the story not entirely with credibility and a few too many jumps to conclusions for its own good. Still, as an example of sixties filmmaking, it is priceless.

Transfer Quality


    So we have another thirty year old film, and again this came up better than I was expecting.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. This is becoming an all too depressing feature of a lot of MGM releases, and this is extremely short-sighted of them. Believe me, this is going to look ghastly on the digital, widescreen television that you will probably have in three to five years time.

    Bearing in mind that Norman Jewison shot several parts of the film in a very out of focus manner, the transfer was generally sharp throughout, although like Midnight Cowboy perhaps lacking just a little in the way of depth to the transfer. Indeed, this transfer has a lot in common with that effort, and notably this too is from a French master. One noticeable lapse in focus where it was not meant came during the gliding segment, which was a little off-putting. Unfortunately the transfer was not especially clear, and at times I felt that transfer did become a little grainy - whether intentionally or not, I do not know. The shadow detail was not the best I have seen, but for a film of this era is acceptable enough. There did not appear to be any low level noise problems in the transfer, although some of the beach scenes exhibited a rather shimmery image. There were a couple of points where the left hand side of the picture seemed to be affected by degradation of the master, showing evidence of losing the colour and definition in the film.

    The colours are nicely rendered throughout the film, generally well toned without being oversaturated. There were however some lapses, most notably in the bar at Crown's home at around 25:30 where the two red panels have distinctly different colours. This is not an especially vibrant transfer, and I really felt that this was not the most natural looking transfer I have seen.

    There were no significant MPEG artefacts noted in the transfer, although the shimmer in the beach scenes may represent some MPEG blockiness in the transfer. There were no significant film-to-video artefacts noted in the transfer either, although there was some quite minor aliasing here and there. I was actually quite surprised by the relative lack of film artefacts throughout the film, with only a few that were especially noticeable. This is quite a clean transfer for a thirty year old film.

    This disc is an RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 58:59. The layer change is not especially well placed, and is noticeable, although not disruptive to the film. The fact that a dual layer format has been chosen for a 98 minute film with little in the way of extras would go some way to accounting for the quality of the transfer, again very much like Midnight Cowboy.


    This very much sounds like the original soundtrack here, which is actually not too bad an idea from MGM, since there is really not a lot of opportunity for a 5.1 remaster to shine.

    There are six audio tracks on the DVD, all Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtracks: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and an English Audio Commentary. I listened to the English default and sampled the English Audio Commentary.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear and easy to understand throughout.

    There were no apparent audio sync problems with the disc.

    The score by Michel Legrand is one of the most unusual soundtracks I have heard. It is very 1960s jazz influenced, quite dissonant at times, extremely strident on occasions and quite dated nowadays. It copped an Oscar nomination in 1969, but frankly I found it so dated and so strident that it was nothing but annoying. Still, there is no denying that the film would not be the same without this soundtrack. The theme song won the Oscar for Best Song in 1969, in case you were wondering.

    You certainly cannot expect too much from a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, and it does not deliver much either. However, it is a very clean soundtrack, and since the film has little in the way of dialogue anyway, and certainly even less in the way of effects, it is more than sufficient for the task. Certainly a film for those who are not blessed with the full surround speaker setup, since they really are totally superfluous here, apart from the centre speaker.


    A decent enough package from MGM on this occasion.


    Somewhat perversely, the full frame menus appear to be 16x9 enhanced! The main menu audio and animation is okay, but the sound could perhaps have been a little better.


    The usual informative effort from MGM.

Theatrical Trailer (2:00)

    Actually, for a film of this vintage, the trailer is of damn good quality.

Audio Commentary - Norman Jewison (Director)

    To be blunt, I found it a little boring and he does tend to be a little repetitive. Still, occasionally he had some comments of value to make and no commentary can really be a complete waste of time - even though I don't have much time for them myself. Probably a good idea to listen to the commentary first, then if necessary watch the film again, rather than the other way around.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 release appears to miss out on:     Unless the Pan and Scan option is really necessary, it would appear that Region 4 is the marginal winner here owing to the inherent superiority of the PAL system, even without the benefit of 16x9 enhancement.


    A film very much rooted in the period when it was made, The Thomas Crown Affair has not aged well in my view. Part of the problem is the way the film was put together and the musical score, but if the film is to your taste, you will not find too much to complain about here.

    A nice video transfer.

    An acceptable audio transfer.

    A decent package of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
4th January 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL