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A trio of crooks relentlessly pursue a young American woman through Paris in an attempt to recover the fortune her dead husband stole from them. The only person she can trust is a suave, mysterious stranger.
For more about Charade and the Charade Blu-ray release, see Charade Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 20, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Stanley Donen
Writers: Peter Stone (I), Marc Behm
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant (I), Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass
» See full cast & crew
Charade Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 20, 2010
Stanley Donen's "Charade" (1963) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone, and original theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 16-page illustrated booklet containing Bruce Eder's essay "The Spy in Givenchy". In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
While relaxing at a fancy ski resort, Reggie Lampert (Audrey Hepburn), a not so happily married American beauty, meets Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), a charming gentleman. The two chat and then Reggie heads back to Paris. There she is shocked to discover that her husband, Charles, was murdered immediately after he apparently auctioned all of their possessions without telling her.
Strange things begin to happen. Reggie learns that Charles had a secret life in which he did strange things with strange people – some of which are now very angry that he is dead because they want the money, approximately $250 million dollars, which he made from the auction. Reggie does not know where the money is but Charles' friends (James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass) believe she does.
Reggie and Peter meet again and she asks for help - at this point, she does not know what to do or think because if what everyone says is true, she apparently lived with a man she did not know. Reggie also meets Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau), a CIA operative, who informs her about her husband's illegal dealings and friends. He also warns her not to trust Peter because like the rest of Charles' friends he is after the money from the auction. But Reggie already likes Peter a lot, and after he chases away a man who attempts to hurt her, she begins to fantasize about having a serious relationship with him. Meanwhile, all of Charles' friends are killed and the only men left standing are Peter and Hamilton - both of whom Reggie has trusted.
Stanley Donen's Charade is a light, absorbing thriller that has the glamour of old-fashioned Hollywood films and the raw energy of classic 60s spy films. With Grant and Hepburn in the leading roles, Charade also has the look and feel of a big budget, serious production meant to appeal to a wide variety of viewers.
The plot is rather complicated (at least for a 60s film). There are a number of excellent twists in it that effectively transform Charade into a guessing game of sorts in which perceptions and expectations routinely have to be revised. Nothing is what it seems and no one is to be fully trusted - not even Hepburn's character.
Hepburn and Grant's flirtations, however, are what makes Charade a great film. They clearly enjoy each other's company and despite the age difference share the same playful state of mind. Naturally, when halfway through Charade Grant confesses to Hepburn that he is having a tough time keeping his hands off her, it is obvious that he speaks the truth.
Charade also benefits from a strong supporting cast. Matthau is terrific as the knowledgeable CIA operative, though his time in front of the camera is quite limited. Coburn, Kennedy, and Glass, are also excellent as the "friends".
For Charade, director Donen collaborated with legendary cinematographer Charles Lang, who in 1934 won an Oscar for his contribution to Frank Borzage's Farewell to the Arms (1932). Lang is also known for his contribution to Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall's How The West Was Won (1962).
Charade Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Stanley Donen's Charade arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This high-definition digital transfer was created from the 35mm interpositive at IVC. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DTS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Maria Palazzola.
Telecine colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
This is a strong high-definition transfer, one that improves on all problematic areas SDVD releases of Charade previously conveyed. Fine object detail is very good, clarity very pleasing, and contrast levels certainly a lot better than I expected them to be. The color-scheme has also benefited enormously from the upgrade to 1080p; blues, reds, yellows, greens, browns, blacks, and whites look fresh and natural; for the first time now the nighttime scenes actually look healthy as all of the blockiness that plagued previous SDVD releases of Charade is gone. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern. I also did not detect any traces of heavy noise reduction. I did see a few very mild color pulsations during the second half of the film, but they certainly appear to have been inherited. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. I also did not see any large cuts, warps, marks, or stains. To sum it all up, this clearly is the best Charade has ever looked. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Charade Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0 (Mono). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio system."
I don't have any major reservations with the English LPCM 1.0 track. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. There are no balance issues with award-winning composer Henry Mancini's music score either. Understandably, the dynamic amplitude is rather limited, but overall the sound has very pleasing depth. Lastly, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Charade Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Trailer - a theatrical trailer for Charade. In English, not subtitled. (4 min, 1080i).
Commentary - an audio commentary, recorded exclusively for Criterion in 1999, with director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone. This is the same audio commentary that was included on Criterion's SDVD release of Charade. It is very informative, and at times quite hilarious, containing a wealth of information about the production history of Charade, where and how specific scenes from the film were shot, how the film was initially received, etc.
Booklet - 16-page illustrated booklet containing Bruce Eder's essay "The Spy in Givenchy" (Mr. Eder is a longtime journalist, film writer, and audio/video producer whose work has appeared in the Village Voice, Newsday, Current Biography, Interview, and Oxford American. He is a frequent contributor to the Criterion Collection and has recorded audio commentaries for more than two dozen movies).
Charade Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I think it is fair to say that Stanley Donen's Charade has finally received the type of treatment it deserves. After years of somewhat justified abuse - obviously, because of the film's notorious public domain status - Criterion's Blu-ray release should convince other distributors to stop experimenting with it. Or at least I hope it will. Please keep in mind that this is a Region-A "locked" release. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Charade: Other Editions
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Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant had never been teamed on the screen before, and made for an electric pair in Charade. Here we present interviews, graphics, rarities and behind-the-scenes stories of the classic that has become one of the most beloved films in the ...
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