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DVD Review: To Catch A Thief – Centennial Collection (1955)

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Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief is his first film shot in the short-lived widescreen format VitsaVision, his second film shot for Paramount, and the only one that the studio still owns and controls. It finds the director covering very familiar territory, both thematically as it deals with an innocent man trying to clear his name and interpersonally as Hitch had previously worked with actors Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and John Williams, screenwriter John Michael Hayes, and cinematographer Robert Burks who won an Academy Award for this film.

Based on the novel by David Dodge, former jewel thief John “The Cat” Robie (Grant) is retired in France; however, a recent series of robberies cause the authorities to question his status. On the run, he seeks the help of from his old gang, but when the police show up, Danielle (Brigitte Auber), his former flame and daughter of his associate Foussard (Jean Martinelli), whisks him away by boat. Robie determines he must catch the imposter to prove his innocence. He teams up with insurance man H. H. Hughson (Williams) to learn who the next potential victims might be. They are Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Francie (Kelly).

Robie gets close to them, but Francie sees through his story and wants to become his partner in crime, but he denies his identity. She invites him over to watch fireworks in the evening and they make love. When Francie later awakes, her mother’s jewels have been taken and she blames Robie. He admits to being Robie and denies taking the jewels, but Francie refuses to believe him.

Robie receives a note to stay away from a villa. He knows it’s a trap, so he sets his own and has Hughson inform the police. On the villa’s grounds, Robie is attacked and his assailant falls to his death, revealing himself to be Foussard. The police announce to the press that the cat burglar is dead, but Robie knows the thief could not have been Foussard.

Francie apologizes to Robie. With her help, he goes to a grand masquerade ball where he is sure the real cat burglar will strike again. The police attend as well keeping a keen eye on Robie. Before the evening is over, the truth will be revealed.

Although this title might not leap to people’s minds when discussing his work, Hitchcock delivers a high quality film with To Catch A Thief that combines romance and intrigue. Sure to satisfy fans of classic Hollywood. Keep an eye out early for Hitchcock’s cameo.

Dr. Drew Casper, the first Alma and Alfred Hitchcock Professor for the Study of American Film at USC, provides a very informative commentary track that is reminiscent of a critical studies lecture. It’s best for those who want to learn about the artistry of Hitchcock.

Like the other entries in the Centennial Collection, Disc 2 is chock full of extras. “A Night with the Hitchcocks” documents an event in 2008 where family members spoke to students at an event at USC in his honor. “Unacceptable Under the Code: Film Censorship in America” looks at Hitchcock dealing with the issue. “Edith Head: The Paramount Years” looks at the legendary costume designer. “If You Love To Catch A Thief, You’ll Love This Interactive Travelogue” is less than a minute and looks at the French Riviera via the film; however, your love of the film probably won’t translate.

The features “Writing and Casting To Catch A Thief,” “The Making of To Catch A Thief,” “Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly,” and “Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An Appreciation” all deal with the subjects in their titles through interviews and great archival footage.

Make sure to catch a copy of this for your video library to complete your Hitchcock collection.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://www.genericmugwump.com Aaron Fleming

    That Robie, what a cad!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Definitely. my favorite line in the movie is after Francie thinks Robie stole the jewels her mother asks what else he stole. Muth-er!

  • http://blogcritics.org Lisa McKay

    Edith Head’s costumes for this film are a presence in and of themselves. Between that and the scenery, this is one of my personal favorite Hitchcock films. Nice review, El B.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Yeah, that masquerade ball was pretty spectacular, and this film is the first time Hitch went out on location. Thanks for stopping by.