The Help of a Woman

To Catch a Thief needs to make Cary Grant a hero even with his past as a professional burglar. Empathy for a crook isn’t easy. It’s Hitchcock, so of course, Grant plays an innocent man, framed for a crime. To Catch a Thief employs an elegant wit, snapping back at any accusers through an insurance agent who admits stealing ashtrays and towels from hotels; he’s no different than Grant. Mostly.

Victims in this crime spree all come from high society. Smug types or arrogant types who flaunt their wealth and refuse to be seen without it. Thieving jewels from materialists who have plenty isn’t criminal – it’s creating a balance, or so goes the thought. Robin Hood, only Grant used it to build himself a posh lifestyle after his stint as a French resistance fighter. Again, it’s hard to wave off Grant who’s positively angelic as depicted.

To Catch a Thief is flawless Hollywood

Under the sophistication, the glamour, the serene French scenery, To Catch a Thief ensures it doesn’t take itself seriously. The central romance – Grant and Grace Kelly – catches on amid actual fireworks. The first jewelry heists happen while edited between shots of a cat coming and going. Smarmy satire is everywhere, bundled with Grant/Kelly’s immoral seductive play for one other. Refined, cultivated dialog hangs on each word, characters always indirect, never directly accusatory, but always suggestive.

In Hitchcock’s way, To Catch a Thief is flawless Hollywood. Luxurious doesn’t even convey the captivating imagery, framed not only to lavish attention on the French coastline, but these stars, dressed for screen magnificence. Grant and Kelly represent the best screen attraction: naturally joined and intellectually matched, rooting for them happens organically. Few ever played enthrallment toward one another better, or with more irresistible grandeur.

All this lushness doesn’t hurt, yet it’s ultimately just a setting. To Catch a Thief admonishes luxury, much as it uses it. The easily duped victims care not for their circumstance or privilege. In that way, To Catch a Thief is careful. All the pricey wine and outlandishly scaled costume parties serve Grant. He lives well, but not that well. Suggesting he’s Robin Hood is laughable, yet among this grandiosity, any balance or redistribution seems right, moral or not. It’s near self-parody, asking an audience why they root for those so impossibly high in status compared to their middle class life. Then comes another exchange between Grant and Kelly; suddenly, it’s worth supporting.

Video

One of the first of three films in a new Paramount Presents Blu-ray line, the studio touts a new 4K master for To Catch a Thief. In a certain sense, improvements are undeniable. Lush Vistavision cinematography crams in absurd levels of color. Visits to a flower market show off saturation at record levels. The late costume party swoons for every hue. Wide shots take in the coastlines with remarkable density in water, greenery, and skylines. Absolute magnificence.

Other than some limited clipping, contrast stays perfectly bright. There’s no sign of dimming or aging in this print. Black levels look murky (especially during the finale), if proper to the intended look. That adds to the mystery and seediness. Kudos also to the restoration that doesn’t allow a single dirt speck or scratch in this presentation.

But – and this is a big one – Paramount kills this transfer. The DNR is unacceptable. Early on, Grant wears a striped shirt. Because of processing, it flickers when in motion. Occasionally, it leaves behind ghosting too. Strangely, it’s the rear projection or matte shots that look best, with grain intact and detail whole. If there’s any doubt, a bonus feature uses clips from an older master. There, To Catch a Thief looks fantastic, certainly better than the main feature. To ruin the vintage French scenery this way is a crime against film.

Audio

The TrueHD mix comes only in 5.1; there is no mono track offered. While slightly imbalanced in favor of the score, it’s cleanly mastered. Highs sound a little stressed, if no more than usual for ‘50s era recordings.

Surround touches cause no offense. Water splashes to add ambiance on occasion. Busy markets spread ambient dialog around. Generally, the center channel does the work, stretching only when the environment allows.

Extras

Leonard Maltin’s appreciation runs seven minutes, and it’s here where you can compare the new and old masters if you want. A look behind-the-scenes at Paramount focuses on Grant and Kelly for six minutes. Hitchcock historian Drew Casper provides commentary over the film.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

To Catch a Thief
  • Video
  • Audio
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5

Movie

A masterpiece of screen romance and intellectual satire, Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief is a marvelous example of screen foreplay.

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