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Release Date(s)1963 (September 21, 2010)
Studio(s)Stanley Donen Productions/Universal (Criterion - Spine #57)
When a film in the public domain is rescued from such oblivion with a proper home video restoration, it’s always cause for celebration. Such was the case when Criterion released the 1963 Stanley Donen film Charade on DVD in an anamorphic version in 2004 (the company had issued a non-anamorphic version four years prior). Now Criterion has improved on that with its new 1.85:1 Blu-ray version.
The film is a wonderful combination of style and substance that revolves around a woman named Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) whose apartment in Paris has been stripped bare by her husband who later turns up dead. What doesn’t turn up is half a million dollars that he supposedly stole. Three men (James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass) are after that money and the only person who seems willing to help Regina is a mysterious stranger played by Cary Grant. But Grant’s real motives are unclear too.
There’s obviously plenty of star power in Charade, but it’s the story that’s the real star – an entrancing mystery game of cat and mouse, red herrings, and unexpected twists that puts to shame most contemporary thrillers that have to rely on special effects and overt sex to compensate for sub-standard writing. The chemistry between Grant and Hepburn is palpable and that makes their relationship at least as sexually intense than any overtly consummated one. The film also provides a great opportunity to see several familiar actors early in their careers (the afore-mentioned Coburn and Kennedy, as well as Walter Matthau in a supporting role as a U.S. embassy official). It’s been often stated that Charade is the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made – a familiar sentiment that is none the less true for its frequent repetition.
The improvement in Criterion’s Blu-ray image over its fine DVD version is substantial. The colour is the most noticeable aspect – bright and vibrant with very good fidelity. Reds are particularly well handled. Skin-tones are accurate. The image detail also impresses in both near and distant focus objects. Modest grain throughout imparts a very film-like look. The image has also received considerable clean-up although a few speckles and scratches still remain. The uncompressed LPCM audio delivers the dialogue clearly and Henry Mancini’s music is well conveyed.
The DVD supplements are carried over including a diverting audio commentary by Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone, and a booklet with a good essay by veteran film historian Bruce Eder.
Great film, great Blu-ray presentation. Highly recommended.
- Barrie Maxwell