Charade (1963) - The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Comedy / Mystery
Universal || NR - 113 minutes - $39.95 || September 21, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-09-19


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Stanley Donen
Writer(s): Peter Stone and Mark Behm (story), Peter Stone (screenplay)
Cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, James Coburn


Theatrical Release Date: December 5, 1963


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Audio Commentary
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (PCM 1.0)
  • Subtitles: NA

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.::THE FILM::.

Stanley Donen’s Charade has often been called one of the best non-Hitchcock Hitchcock movies ever made and I guess given how many directors have attempted to replicate the director – and even duplicate it in the case of Gus Van Sant – I tend to agree with that assessment when it comes to this movie. As a film that certainly takes more than one cue from the Master of Suspense, I think it works quite well and with two of Hollywood’s finest actors, that it deserves the classic status alongside of some of Hitchcock’s greatest.

Regina Lambert (AUDREY HEPBURN) is the wife who, while on resort vacation, confides in best friend that she is contemplating divorcing her wealthy husband because she no longer loves him and she suspects he does not love her. Later after that exchange she meets handsome stranger named Peter Joshua (CARY GRANT) who himself is divorced. The exchange is fairly short and the two part, both heading to Paris.

Upon her return, Regina finds the apartment completely empty, no furniture, books, clothes, nothing and she discovers from the police inspector that her husband had sold everything off to the tune of $250,000. She then discovers that he was not who she thought he was and that he had in fact, while serving during WWII, had stolen the money with three others from the United States treasury, money meant to help the war effort in Germany. She is told that he had been murdered when he was thrown off a train. Now she is being hunted down by those men wanting their money back: Tex Panthollow (JAMES COBURN), Herman Scobie (GEORGE KENNEDY) and Leopold Gideon (NED GLASS).

There’s another party after the money and that’s Uncle Sam represented by Hamilton Bartholemew (WALTER MATTHAU) who wants Regina to find the money and pay it back to the U.S. government. Obviously today $250,000 is less than even chump change but I guess every penny counts... So now Regina as three bad guys and the government applying pressure on her but she hasn’t a clue where the money is and her husband did not leave any obvious clues to where it could be.

Charade is kind of an odd film because the twist used in the end as to where the $250,000 really is has been used countless times including the remake, The Truth About Charlie starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton as well as, and my memory may be incorrect, even an episode of “CSI”, so I had some major déjà vu when the twist was revealed even though I had not ever seen this film.

In any case, director Donen unravels the story quite well and on the shoulders of his charming leads, particularly Cary Grant who plays his role(s) so well and with equal amount of charisma and mystery keeping the audience, and Audrey Hepburn, in the dark until the very end. The supporting cast also is fantastic especially since you have three actors who were not as well known as they are today with Walter Matthau, James Coburn and especially George Kennedy in particularly playing up a great and sinister part that often can be thankless but he does it so well.

Overall, I don’t think Charade is a fantastic film in the vein of the Hitchcock classics but on its own it is still well worth watching if for nothing else than the on-screen chemistry between Grant, even in his older years, and the much younger Hepburn.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The Blu-ray comes housed in Criterion’s unique BD cases which are the same size as regular cases but leave off the blue Blu-ray banner.

Feature Commentary – Recorded in 1999 for The Criterion Collection, director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone (who passed away in ’03) provide a nice and informative commentary where the two bounce stories off of one another about filming locations and the story.

The disc also includes the theatrical trailer (3:16; SD) and a timeline feature that is like the scene selection except with this the chapter stops are by commentary subjects. There is also a booklet with an essay by film historian Bruce Eder.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Charade is presented in its original 1.85 aspect ratio and although it has been available on DVD in various forms (it came with The Truth About Charlie remake disc) but now on Blu-ray and from The Criterion Collection who given this a restored high-definition transfer and I have to say, for a 37-year old film, it looks pretty dang good. Obviously this isn’t going to look the greatest since there is a discernable amount of grain and/or noise but it is going to be the best we will see in its purist form. The colors are well balanced from the opening scene between Hepburn and Grant to the sequences in and around Paris.

Like with most of the older Criterion Blu-ray releases, this comes with monaural soundtrack (PCM 1.0) that, at best, gets the job done. Again, given the film’s age there obviously isn’t going to be a full 5.1 mix so what we get is going to be the best yet and overall, it doesn’t sound too bad especially since a majority of the movie is dialogue driven save for some gunfire towards the end.



.::OVERALL::.

Charade may not measure up to some of Hitchcock’s greatest films like Rear Window or North by Northwest, but looking at it by itself director Stanley Denton manages to mix suspenseful mystery with witty comedy. The Blu-ray meanwhile doesn’t pack much of a punch with the features but the video looks great and the audio is good enough for a film like this.