To Catch A Thief is the most visually stunning film of Hitchcock’s career. However, it has never quite got the color timing right on home video. At first, I thought this release was too bright, then I watched the old Blu-ray and now that seems too dark. Having not been alive in the 1950s, I have no way of guaranteeing the proper color mix. So, I’ll leave that pedantic argument to the people at a popular self titled Blu-ray enthusiast site.
For now, AndersonVision is finally tackling To Catch A Thief: Paramount Presents edition. The easy answer is that we love the film and how great it looks as a collectible release. However, I wish that To Catch A Thief was getting a 4K release at this point. What is the point in dipping back on Blu-ray if you don’t go crazy with the restoration and supplemental materials? It just feels like a retread for people who dig sweet Slipcovers.
Cary Grant had been retired for nearly two years before making To Catch A Thief. Grant’s retirement from acting was a response to the HUAC witchhunts and how horribly America treated Charlie Chaplin. When Hitchcock approached him with the film, he took it for the same reasons at Hitch. Why not have a free vacation on the Riviera? Paramount was picking up the tab.
What’s funny is To Catch A Thief is the only Hitchcock movie still owned by Paramount. Yet, it’s the last film Hitchcock made with Grace Kelly and the first where he felt the studio pressure to shoot in Vista Vision. Originally set up as a late summer release, Paramount wanted the big Hitchcock spectacle that broke out of the suspense mold of the director’s prior work. Many themes on display here would be revisited in Vertigo and North by Northwest, but none of them looked this gorgeous.
Grace Kelly only made three films with Hitchcock before she married into royalty. That’s not to discount her body of work including her Oscar win. It’s just that Hollywood didn’t have that long with her before she left the Silver Screen. While watching the film, the typical trivia blasts into my brain. One of the roads seen in the film was also where Grace Kelly’s fatal car wreck happened.
Plus, there’s the whole Hitchcock creepiness with his regard for Grace Kelly. Poor Tippi Hedren didn’t even look anything like her. Yet, that wasn’t enough to save her from a creepy master director with issues beyond the pale even for the 50s. Projection is some rough stuff, but it’s not hard to see why Hitchcock cast the way older Cary Grant to seduce Kelly.
Alfred Hitchcock isn’t a personal favorite, but I respect his work. However, his output in the mid 1950s holds a special place in my heart. As Hitchcock shuffled among studios, his Paramount work seemed to really spruce up his aesthetic. Cinemascope was taking over theaters, as TV was stealing audiences away. VistaVision was devised as a means for Paramount to steal focus back with films like White Christmas and To Catch A Thief.
VistaVision was a way to get around the Cinemascope process. It was virtually the Academy Ratio but with the mattes removed to hit the full frame. I dig the look, but it’s not true scope. It’s just slightly better than checking out television. Mix that together with Edith Head’s legendary costumes and you have quite the visual feast.
To Catch A Thief: Paramount Presents is the latest Blu-ray release for the classic film. You get a new Leonard Maltin FILMMAKER FOCUS featurette on disc. Plus, the old featurette, commentary and trailer are available from the old disc. Check out the screenshots to see that magnificent 4K restoration. To Catch A Thief deserves your attention and a 4K release already! Get on it, Paramount.