Friday, December 6, 2013

Charade (The Criterion Collection) (1963)

CharadeAnybody else out there own three copies of Charade on DVD?

It's a great movie, yeah, but not worth three copies. Well, maybe the lesson was worth three copies. The first one took me by surprise. Front Row Features put it out. Nice looking jewel case with the word LETTERBOX EDITION across the top. I had to have it. Couldn't wait to watch it. It was the worst piece of crap I'd ever seen shoveled onto DVD. Faded colors. Blurry pictures. Horrid sound that kept breaking up. It was worse than my ten-year-old VHS copy. I was mortified. Then someone told me there was a copy out there by a company called Criterion Collection, but the price was $40.00. No way, I thought, am I paying that much for a movie.

Next copy I bought was put out by Diamond Entertainment. I'll give them their due. They did a fairly good job of cleaning up whatever print they used. The picture is pretty good; color still slightly washed out, some flickering that's annoying. The sound has been repaired. So what you get is about a C+ to a low Bfor this DVD. I like Diamond. And compared to the road kill that Front Row Features served up, the Diamond Entertainment version is a seven-course meal in the finest restaurant.

At last, I couldn't stand it any longer. I went for the Criterion Collection version. I know, I know. Three copies. But the Front Row Features DVD will be thrown into the trash; I won't even subject a stranger at a garage sale to that basement torture trash. The Diamond Entertainment version, which is not a bad copy, just not the best, I'll hand over to my brother as a free-bee gift. He likes the movie, as well, and is even less likely than I to put out the cash.

But then there's the Criterion Collection version. This IS the SEVEN COURSE MEAL AT THE FINEST RESTAURANT, topped off with the finest drinks and entertainment, and a check at the end that says ON THE HOUSE! Everything great anyone has said about the Criterion Collection DVD of Charade is true. It's beautiful. The sound is perfect. The color heavenly. There are no age spots what so ever, no dropouts, none of the flickering that indicates the film was damaged and had to be spliced. It's a beautiful widescreen transfer from a 33mm interpositive. I'd never seen the original trailer for this film till I bought this DVD; it's funny, it's charming, it gets you primed for the movie. There is an Audio Commentary with director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone. And some great career highlights on Peter Stone's career.

It took me three times to get it right (and that won't happen again, at least with DVDs), but get it right I did. Don't ever buy the Front Row Features version; if you already have it, burn it. NOW. If you can't afford the Criterion version, go ahead and get the Diamond Entertainment version; as always, they do a good job for a low price. But if you want the absolute best presentation of this movie, if you want to see the movie as it has not been seen since it was in the theater almost 40 years ago, find the Criterion Collection DVD. You will not be disappointed.

This is an exceptional DVD transfer of an exceptional movie. Criterion has done a magnificent job of restoring Charade to its colorful glory. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The print is clear, crisp, and beautiful to behold. You feel as if you can reach out and touch the actors.

And what actors! The film features the dashing older version of Cary Grant and the youthful gamine Audrey Hepburn, with enough chemistry between them to ignite a fireworks factory. The plot is a convoluted and flimsy trifle about cold war spy shenanigans, with cases of mistaken identity and episodes of grave danger for Miss Audrey. But Cary, the classic good guy in cad's clothing, is there to save the day. In addition to which he provides chaste romance that sizzles beneath the civility.

Audio commentary is provided by director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone. While interesting and funny in spots, it does drag a bit over the length of the film. It may be better to check it out when you find something in the film that you would like to hear dissected. Otherwise, you'd be better to stick with the delightful, corny dialogue spoken in the dulcet tones of Cary and Audrey. The soundtrack music is to also to be savored, done up in classic '60s spy movie style by the movie maestro Henry Mancini.

If you have nothing to do on a rainy day and own a DVD player, this is the movie you want to have on hand to pop in the machine and deliver you from care. It's a keeper (and it comes in a keeper case!).

Buy Charade (The Criterion Collection) (1963) Now

I got this DVD for Christmas and I wasn't disappointed. Stanley Donen, director of musicals such as "Singin' In The Rain" starring Gene Kelly, brought together Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn (who looks luminous, as always) in this wonderfully-written story about a Parisian widow (Hepburn) who is being pursued by three dangerous men (two of which are played by George Kennedy an excellent "heavy" and James Coburn at his most menacing) who want to find out about a large sum of money her dead husband supposedly had. Grant is the helpful stranger but eventually you begin to wonder: is he working with these men? Does he want the money for himself? Or is he really the handsome, older man Audrey finds herself falling in love with?

Enhanced by a lush score by the late Henry Mancini, photographed beautifully in Paris and containing first-rate acting and deliciously wicked dialogue by writer Peter Stone, "Charade" is a film that should be in every serious DVD collection. Grant is older but better, like fine wine, and Ms. Hepburn ... well there have been millions of words used to describe her and I can't add to them other than to say the world lost a marvelous talent at her death.

You'll enjoy "Charade" for a long, long time.

Read Best Reviews of Charade (The Criterion Collection) (1963) Here

First and foremost, this is a very enjoyable movie. It was very enjoyable in 1963 and it remains enjoyable today. The actors, the story, and the cinematic craft are all first rate.

This Criterion release is fantastic. Most of the video is absolutely flawless with well-saturated colors and an absence of artifacts. Even shots of Coburn's checked shirt are free of compression artifacts or aliasing which is common to this kind of shot. The audio is fine considering it is mono and mastered in 1963. There are a few rare blemishes noticeable on the screen that look like problems with the source media but that is nowhere near as offensive as artifacts or aliasing.

The fun bonus on this edition is the writer and director commentary! For those of us that like this sort of thing, this is a very enjoyable example. Listening to these two, what?, 70-year-olds bicker back and forth is a complete crack-up!

Want Charade (The Criterion Collection) (1963) Discount?

A must see film for any Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn fan, the chemistry between the two is wonderful. This has always been a great film and on DVD it is nothing short of stunning. The film is shown in its original widescreen 1.85.1 aspect ratio for the first time ever since its theatrical release. The image quality is superb when you consider the age of the film and the appalling video quality of previous releases of the film. The sound has been improved, yes it is mono but it sounds better than ever. The director's commentary on this DVD is one of the best I have ever heard, with some arguing between the writer and director of the film and some wonderful insights into the making of this film. Highly recommended.

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