Charade (1963/2011)

by | Mar 22, 2012 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Charade (1963/2011) DVD+Digital Copy
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, James Coburn
Director: Stanley Donen
Music: Henry Mancini
Studio: Universal 61120106 [3/6/12]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color
Audio: English DD 5.1, English or French DD mono
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Theatrical trailer, “100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era,” “100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era”
Length: 1 hour 54 minutes
Rating: *****

Considered by many film critics to be the best Hitchcock film that Hitch never made, the suspenseful Charade is terrific to have restored to a crisp and detailed image. (Yes, it’s great Technicolor widescreen but you’re probably better off sonically with the original mono option rather than the attempt to turn it into 5.1 surround. Don’t know why they call it DD 2.0, because it all comes out of my center speaker.) Charade had such wide appeal that it was even remade in 2002—a flop, of course.
Audrey Hepburn is a Parisienne whose Swiss husband has just been murdered and thrown off a train somewhere. She is being tailed by four strange men who want the $250,000 the murdered spouse had hidden somewhere and they are sure she has it. The Cary Grant character shows up to supposedly aid and protect her, but she learns that there is a possibility he could be one of the four and even the killer. Walter Matthau plays a rather slovenly CIA man who calls her into his office and informs her that the four men and her late husband were all American soldiers in the recent war taking $250,000 to Europe for the French underground. They claimed they were attacked by the Germans who took the money but actually the five buried it and her husband went back later to dig it up. Naturally the U.S. wants the money back and he warns the widow she is in great danger.
It was interesting to read that Cary Grant was uncomfortable in playing an older man seducing a young woman, and insisted the script be re-written to have the Audrey Hepburn character pursue him instead—which she does in her usual sympathetic and chaste style. They even converted an actual incident when the two actors first met and Audrey accidentally spilled some red wine on Grant, to having her spill her ice cream cone on him in the film. Grant is his usual charming and suave self and the play between the two of them is delightful. The scene where Grant takes a shower with his suit on is a kick. The viewer will probably be guessing until the very end. I think Charade ought to be included in any Hitchcock retrospective, it’s so similar. Great 1960s-style spy movie music from Mancini, too, including the very well-known title tune.
The lavish packaging and the two documentaries in the bonus features are all promoting the 100th Anniversary of Universal Studios, but the two documentaries are quite worth viewing. They fill in many details about the two big names associated with Universal Pictures.  This was issued by Criterion in 2000 on DVD, with several other extras, including a commentary track by Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone. I haven’t compared the image quality of the two restorations, but for an additional expenditure you do get better extras on the Criterion.
—John Sunier

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