Blu-ray Review: Charade (Criterion Collection)

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Criterion’s newly released Blu-ray edition served as my first time seeing Charade, Stanley Donen’s 1963 comedy-thriller starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. As for Donen’s work, it was the third film of his I’ve seen alongside Singin’ in the Rain and one of his two other films with Hepburn, Funny Face. By comparison, Singin’ in the Rain is an undeniable classic, Funny Face isn’t my cup of tea and Charade falls somewhere in the middle, which is to say I won’t be recommending this Blu-ray for purchase.

Detailing the story of Regina Lampert (Hepburn), following the murder of her well-to-do husband, Charade‘s title is entirely apt as Regina is forced to figure out who to believe and who is putting her on as $250,000 hangs in the balance. Through an exhaustive series of twists and turns, this comedic thriller gets so tied up in the whos and whats of it all that by the time it was over I couldn’t have really cared less. The actors involved are really the only reason I was able to maintain my attention.

Cary Grant performs modestly, walking a line between dramatically suave and comedically buffoonish. Hepburn didn’t do much for me playing the damsel in distress to the point of excess, but the performances of Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy and Ned Glass stand out as the film’s best. Yet, it’s all menacing faces and a twisting tale that isn’t as fascinating as it seems to think it is.

The absolute best moments of the film don’t involved actors at all. Maurice Binder’s excellent title sequence and Henry Mancini’s accompanying score are the film’s highlights and they are over and done with just a few minutes into the film. You can (and should) watch them to the right.

While the film may have done little for me, the audio commentary provided by director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone is an absolute blast thanks, in large part, to the constant friendly bickering between Stone and Donen. Spending their time correcting one another or simply reminiscing over this 1963 release, Stone and Donen seem to be having a good time the whole way through. Strangely enough, this is the lone feature on this release outside of the 12-page booklet featuring an essay by film historian Bruce Eder.

Lacking in supplemental content, this Blu-ray is hardly worth it in my opinion. However, for those that are fans of the film, screen captures comparing the Blu-ray and DVD do show the Blu-ray having far more vibrant colors and I will say this is one of the few Technicolor Blu-rays where I’ve noticed a substantial amount of film grain remaining in the picture, maintaining that film-like quality. Also, if you take a look at those screen captures you’ll notice some of the colors are completely different when you compare Criterion’s 2004 DVD release to this new Blu-ray. Not only do they pop off the screen they are truer to the original film. I’m speaking, of course, having never seen the DVD edition, but the screen captures don’t lie.

I can’t give my full recommendation of this release, but die-hard fans should be happy with the new transfer, though the absence of any new supplemental materials means fans that don’t already own this film truly benefit.

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