For The Master Of Suspense Blogathon, I was originally going to review the 1958 classic, Vertigo. I selected this film because it had been recommended by one of my readers. Unfortunately, my plans fell through at the last minute. So, I had to quickly choose an alternative. As I looked back at the blogathon’s participant list, I discovered the 1955 film, To Catch a Thief, hadn’t been selected. That is the film I am now reviewing for The Master of Suspense Blogathon. I have seen some of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies before this event. From what I know of To Catch a Thief, the 1955 production is different from other titles such as Psycho and Rear Window. But will this difference impact the quality of the film? Keep reading my review in order to solve this mystery!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: In To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant portrayed John Robie, a former jewel thief looking to clear his name. A man of suave charisma, John was afraid of being accused of something he didn’t do. But he never lets this fear get to him. Instead, with the talents of Cary Grant, John was confident and intelligent. Grace Kelly was also cast in To Catch a Thief, portraying Frances Stevens. Frances carried herself with dignified confidence. However, this confidence did not come across as snobbish or arrogant. It added to Frances’ likability, along with her gentle demeanor and respectful elegance. Danielle Foussard is a friend of John’s. Portrayed by Brigitte Auber, Danielle had a spunky streak in her, adding liveliness to her and John’s interactions. A scene I really liked was when John, Frances, and Danielle are swimming in the ocean together. This scene perfectly showcased their personalities, as their banter bounced among each other like a soaring beach ball. What made that scene great to watch was the joining of the acting talents of Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Brigitte Auber!
The scenery: Most of the car chases in To Catch a Thief are captured in long, establishing shots. This is very different from car chases in other films, where the chases are shown in medium or close up shots. To Catch a Thief’s approach to car chases emphasizes the scenery surrounding these chases. Looking back on this film’s scenery, I can understand why To Catch a Thief’s creative team would make that decision. With the majority of the production filmed in France, the story shows pieces of the French countryside and seaside. Giant green mountains and deep blue waters present an isolated oasis. A smattering of orange roofed houses perched on these mountains add to the movie’s vibrant color palette. On the French seaside, bright yellow sands welcome the deep blue waters of the ocean. Most of the story’s exterior shots feature a blue sky with a handful of clouds. Even the flowers are appealing bursts of color, boasting shades of red, pink, and even purple. To Catch a Thief is a pretty looking movie and it knows it!
The dialogue: During discussions of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, use of music, cinematography, and lighting are typically talked about by fans and film enthusiasts. But one area of film-making I feel is overlooked, specifically when it comes to Alfred’s work, is the dialogue. This element of story-telling was a pleasant surprise in To Catch a Thief! It not only suited the characters respectively, it also sounded like the screenwriters put a lot of thought into what the characters told each other. While driving through the French countryside, John and Frances are discussing Frances’ past. As the discussion carries on, John accuses Frances of looking for a husband on her trip. But Frances responds by saying, “The man I want doesn’t have a price”. This statement represented the respectful elegance Grace consistently carried throughout the film. It also hinted at foreshadowing.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Limited amount of urgency: At the beginning of To Catch a Thief, John learns he is accused of stealing valuable jewelry. He evens claims to have ten days in order to clear his name. You’d think with this tight timeline, there would be a strong sense of urgency in the story. But this urgency to find the truth is, unfortunately, inconsistent. Instead, more emphasis is placed on the scenery, the romance, and the “finer things in life”. While the mystery was resolved, the limited amount of urgency held the story’s suspense and intrigue back.
A small amount of suspense and intrigue: Alfred Hitchcock’s productions are known for incorporating suspense and intrigue. This reputation has earned Alfred the title of “Master of Suspense”. In To Catch a Thief, however, suspense and intrigue were only served in small amounts. Part of this problem results from the limited amount of urgency I previously talked about. Another reason for this problem is how suspense and intrigue were used sparingly instead of evenly spread out throughout the story. It got to the point where I almost forgot this story had a mystery.
Lack of suspects: A typical mystery will include a collection of suspects, individuals who may or may not have a reason to be the guilty party. These characters are presented as uniquely as possible, in order to help the audience remember them and their reasoning. To Catch a Thief lacked this ingredient. Because the mystery was not as prioritized as in other works from Alfred Hitchcock, no room was made to include suspects. There was a red herring in To Catch a Thief, but this reveal felt random. Even the reveal of the mystery’s guilty party wasn’t completely surprising.
My overall impression:
As I said in this review, To Catch a Thief is a pretty looking movie and it knows it. While the scenery was the film’s crown jewel, there were other aesthetically pleasing components of this production, like the costume design and the set design. When it comes to the story, though, it wasn’t as suspenseful and intriguing as other Alfred Hitchcock movies. The visuals ended up overshadowing the script. I will give Alfred Hitchcock credit where it’s due, as it seems like he tried to take a different approach to cinematic story-telling. But out of his films I have seen, I prefer titles like Strangers on a Train.
Overall score: 6.3-6.4 out of 10
Have you seen To Catch a Thief? Which titles of Alfred Hitchcock’s do you prefer? Please tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!