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Charade
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary: A conversation with Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone
  • The Films of Stanley Donen: A selected filmography, with an introduction by Donen biographer Stephen M. Silverman
  • Peter Stone's career highlights
  • Original theatrical trailer

Charade

2004 Anamorphic Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Stanley Donen
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass, Jacques Marin, Paul Bonifas, Dominique Minot, Thomas Chelimsky
113 | 1963 Minutes | Licensor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #57
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: April 5, 2004
Review Date: August 18, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

A trio of crooks relentlessly pursue a young American (Audrey Hepburn) through Paris to recover the fortune her dead husband stole from them. The only person she can trust is a suave, mysterious stranger (Cary Grant). A deliciously dark comedic thriller, Stanley Donen's Charade dazzles with style and macabre wit to spare. Unavailable for nearly three years, The Criterion Collection is proud to re-release this '60s spy classic in a gorgeous new anamorphic transfer.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection re-released Charade after it was shortly out-of-print, this time presenting the film with an anamorphic transfer, again in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layered disc.

The previous DVD from Criterion presented a non-anamorphic transfer and was discontinued when the remake The Truth About Charlie was about to come out, Universal possibly hoping to cash-in in some way on that film. That remake (which really wasnít all that good, in fact I might even call it terrible) was a bit of a dud and the DVD, which even included Charade on the other side of the disc (maybe Universal hoping that might improve sales,) didnít do much better. One advantage that the version of Charade on Universalís The Truth About Charlie DVD had was that the film now had an anamorphic transfer. Unfortunately it still didnít come near Criterionís previous non-anamorphic transfer, as I thought the colours weren't as good and the image was softer. Thankfully Universal called it quits and licensed the film back to Criterion, who then went to work on a new anamorphic release.

Well, the good news is that this new Criterion transfer is better than the Charade found on Universalís The Truth About Charlie release. Unfortunately, in some respects, itís not as good as Criterionís previous release.

The print is actually in better shape. I assume they used the same print as what was used for the previous DVD. Itís still in very good shape but more clean-up has been done. The opening looks a little better and places where I noticed a few marks on the old DVD are now clean. Thereís still some damage but itís even more minimal than before.

I have a very high opinion of the transfer on the previous DVD. Yes, Criterion has done even better since that release, but it still looks quite good, especially for a non-anamorphic transfer. Itís sharp and the colours look fantastic. I think because of that I had very high expectations for this release, now being anamorphic, and they unfortunately werenít completely met. While on a widescreen television this new transfer does look better than the old release in certain respects (you either have to put up with a black border around the whole image or zoom in and put up with a blockier/noisier picture on the older release) as a whole I still think I prefer the older DVD.

I think my big issue is that the image just doesnít look as sharp. Even when comparing on an older standard format television the old release looks much sharper, the image as a whole on the new release looking a little softer around the edges and lacking the definition that I thought was pretty strong previously. I hope Iím not overblowing it by making it sound like itís a soft, mushy mess, because itís not, but just when comparing, even in screen grabs, it does look a little softer. Colours also come off a tad weaker in this version, flesh tones even looking a little paler.

I guess in the end I was simply expecting that old transfer to be basically blown up and enhanced for widescreen televisions. Obviously to create an anamorphic transfer Criterion had to redo it, but they seemed to have traded a few things in to get it. Itís not awful, in fact it still looks good (and is a bit better than the anamorphic transfer found on the Charlie DVD) but I may still prefer the older release in some areas.

7/10

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AUDIO

I didnít really find the audio better for this new version of Charade, which again is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. The audio for the most part is pretty good, though I thought the music could get a bit edgy at times. Spoken dialogue sounds decent, if nothing great. In the end itís a decent mono track.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion has included the same special features as on the old release, thankfully. The features are not all that extensive, but theyíre still quite entertaining and informative (and yes, for the next few paragraphs I copied from the review for the old DVD.)

The commentary is actually one of my favourites in my entire DVD collection. It presents director Stanley Donen and writer Peter Stone and I loved listening to them. They just go on and on like it were just the two of them reminiscing back. They give some great production notes and anecdotes, like the story Cary Grant was worried no one would understand why James Coburn was sticking a mirror under a corpses nose. They both talk about their careers somewhat as well, Stone more so, even bringing up that Charade actually started out as a novel.

I even liked it when they argued. My favourite moment would have to be when they argue over whether the one big twist should be given away. They argue and argue, Stone saying that if the audience is listening to the commentary then they've already watched the film and Donen saying that might not be the case. Of course, once they have the argument resolved, the scene is basically over. Stuff like this actually makes you feel more like an active participant. I also like some of the semi-put-downs they throw in such as when Stone states he wrote a certain shot to which Donen replies "You can't write a shot, Peter!" Itís quite a fun commentary that offers a lot of information about the filmís production and is one of the few filmmaker commentaries that may be just as entertaining as the movie theyíre talking about if not more so.

Biographies/filmographies are provided here for Stanley Donen and Peter Stone. The one for Donen (called The Films of Stanley Donen) is more extensive including photos and posters for some of his movies. The one for Stone is also good but not as thorough as the one for Donen. Both are presented as text and photos that you navigate through using the arrows on your remote. Both are excellent and worth working through.

The disc closes with your typical 60ís style trailer for a thriller, and then the release also comes with an insert that includes an excellent essay on the film by Bruce Eder. In the end itís not an extensive release, but I have to say I greatly enjoyed going through just these few extras than slogging through a lot of mediocre extras.

(There are just a couple differences between the old and new editions in terms of packaging. The back cover for the new DVD has been altered to fit in a logo stating the film is enhanced for widescreen televisions, and the disc art presents yellow swirls instead of blue swirls.)

7/10

CLOSING

Despite my slight disappointment with the new transfer it does still look good, much better than any of those old bargain bin DVDs and the version found on Universalís Charlie DVD. I think I was just a little upset to see a couple of things I thought were so strong on the old release (sharpness and colour) were lost a bit for this new transfer. As to what version of the Criterion DVD to get is up to you as they both have their pros and cons. If you have a widescreen television then, yes, you would probably be better off with this edition. Even if you own the The Truth About Charlie DVD (which Iím sure you own more for the version of Charade on it) itís worth upgrading to this Criterion DVD for the supplements and the slightly better transfer (plus people can look at your collection and say ďHey! You own Charade on DVD!Ē rather than saying ďWhy the hell do you own The Truth About Charlie on DVD!?Ē) If you have an older set-up with a standard television Iíd say go with the older non-anamorphic release if you can find a good deal on it. In the end, itís going to come down to the viewerís preferences.




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