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Updated: September 6, 2010 18:57 IST

Videowatch: To Catch a Thief (1955)

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER
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DVD of To Catch a Thief.
DVD of To Catch a Thief.

This fortnight at indiaplaza.in

To Catch a Thief (1955)

Cast: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Charles Vanel, Brigitte Auber

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Screenwriter: John Michael Hayes from a novel by David F. Dodge

Director of photography: Robert Burks

Composer: Lyn Murray

Price: Rs. 399

Watching “To Catch a Thief” is to be transported into another era — a time of gentleman thieves and feisty heiresses in stunning locales where millionaires and lovable rogues joust over sparkling lovelies that cast their icy fire on cool, elegant throats.

Based on a 1952 novel by David F. Dodge of the same name, “To Catch a Thief” tells the story of a famous jewel thief, John Robie, who has since retired. Robie was nicknamed The Cat for his agility and stealth. After serving in the French Resistance during the War, Robie got parole and is now living the quiet life in a lovely villa on the Riviera, tending grapes.

When a series of copy cat crimes shake the swish set, the police believe Robie is up to his old tricks. After narrowly escaping the police, Robie meets his old associate, Bertani, an ex con, who also has parole for his Resistance work during the war. Bertani now runs a restaurant with other ex-cons who are all upset with Robie as he seems to have brought them under a cloud of suspicion.

Robie realises the only way to prove his innocence is by catching the copy cat in the act. To do so he needs to anticipate the thief's every move. Robie enlists the help of an insurance agent, Hughson for a list of all the jewels in the Riviera worth stealing. The first on the list is a wealthy widow, Jessie Stevens, and her lovely daughter, Francie, who seems to enjoy living on the edge.

“To Catch a Thief” is an Alfred Hitchcock movie through and through from the suspense and humour to the icy blonde, the common man out to prove his innocence, the conversations around food down to his dislike of eggs!

There are so many memorable things about the movie — from the picture postcard view of the Riviera to the statuesque Grace Kelley as Francie dressed in some of the most gorgeous Edith Head costumes. The gold gown in the climax was a knockout.

While Paramount was supposedly iffy about the chemistry between Cary Grant as Robie and Kelly considering their age difference, (Grant was 50 while Kelley was 26), they sizzled on screen.

Considering it was a time when sexuality could not be shown openly on screen, the heated dialogue between Kelley and Grant steamed up the screen much more effectively than any of the calisthenics they show on screen these days. The movie has no missteps, and moves about as surefooted as the cat burglar of the movie.

“To Catch a Thief” might well have served as inspiration for our very own “Jewel Thief”, especially the gentleman thief and the elaborate costume ball at the end. The French police seem to have provided the blueprint for inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther films. The movie is also significant as it was the last film Grace Kelley acted in before becoming Princess Grace of Monaco.

The special edition DVD has a couple of interesting extras including a making-of feature with interviews with Hitchcock's daughter and grand daughter as well as a fascinating feature on costumer Edith Head who won an academy award nomination for her work on the film. Fifty-five years on “To Catch a Thief” is as enthralling as it was when it was released.

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