Jul 022011

You can buy Charade by clicking the highlighted text – Charade (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in CharadeThis is a blu ray review of the Criterion Region A release of Charade.

Charade was directed by Stanley Donen, he is best known for directing some fabulous musicals, one of which is Singin' In The Rain which he co-directed with Gene Kelly.

Cary Grant was sensitive over the age difference between him and co-star Audrey Hepburn, by the end of the film's shoot Hepburn was 34 and Grant was 59.

Mr Grant initially turned down the role of Peter Joshua because he did not want to be seen pursuing a much younger woman than himself, the film often makes fun of the age difference. the film's screenwriter Peter Stone reworked the script and switched things around so that Miss Hepburn now made all the romantic moves on Cary Grant.

At one point Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood were both considered for the lead roles.

The scene where Regina spills ice cream on Adam's suit is based on a real accident where Hepburn spilled red wine over Cary Grant's suit at a dinner party.

Charade is often mistaken for an Alfred Hitchcock film, he did not direct it, it's frequently referred to as the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made.

Film Plot

Regina Lampert ( Audrey Hepburn ) returns home to Paris from a ski vaction to discover her husband has been murdered and several men are after a small fortune in money they believe she has in her possession, Peter Joshua ( Cary Grant ) offers to help find the money but does he want it for himself or to help out Regina and why does he keep changing his name. Hamilton Bartholemew ( Walter Matthau ) tells Regina he is a CIA agent who has been monitoring the situation and that it's stolen government money, he tells her to be careful as anyone associated with the money is usually found dead.

So begins a dangerous game where outward appearances are not everything they seem to be, who is telling the truth and who is playing a charade.


A classic scene from the movie, Charade.The pairing of Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant is superb, both play off of each other well and they have some delicious verbal exchanges, when Audrey first meets Mr Grant she tells him "I already know an awful lot of people and until one of them dies I couldn't possibly meet anyone else." his reply is "Well, if anyone goes on the critical list, let me know." Its such sharp witty dialogue and it seems to be a lost art in a lot of today's modern films which tend to rely on action setpieces and loud explosions, oh how i wish more films were made with the wit and charm displayed in this film.

There is wonderful use of lighting in this film, you can see an example in the image to the right, the director of photography was Charles Lang, he had worked with Audrey Hepburn before on the film Sabrina and would work with her again on Paris When It Sizzles, How To Steal A Million and Wait Until Dark, Lang had been in the industry many years and was an experienced DP, his work on Charade is not his best but it is very good.

There are some great twists and turns during the movie and you never quite know who is telling the truth and who the actual bad guys are, maybe Audrey has the money and is holding out, is Cary Grant a villian, you never know, a great deal of credit must go to screenwriter, Peter Stone, who keeps us guessing right up to the very end of the film, that along with capable direction from Stanley Donen and a decent music score by Henry Mancini.

The chase scene which leads up to the climax of the film is exciting and the romantic boat ride is an example of some of the fabulous well lit cinematography.

It was good to see well known actors such as James Coburn and George Kennedy, Coburn had made The Magnificent Seven just a few years earlier and Kennedy would go on to win an Oscar for Cool Hand Luke. Charade is every bit as good as the aforementioned films and in some ways even better.


If you have seen as many films as i have then you tend to be able to spot the bad guy in films such as Charade well before you are supposed to, i will say i guessed correctly around half way into this film, it did not spoil my enjoyment though, there is the problem today that the media can and often do spoil the ending of film's by telling you who did what before you get the chance to watch the movie for yourself, don't worry though as i will not tell you anything that will spoil your enjoyment of Charade,

I wish there had been more extra content for this film, you do get an audio commentary with the director and screenwriter and a trailer and a 14 page booklet but how nice it would be to get some indepth features on films like this and deleted scenes, for new films i tend to not bother with extra content but thats because most of it is standard fluff and gives no real insight into the film making process, when done right i enjoy extra content, i'm not too keen on Criterion cramming all their extra's onto the same disc as the movie so maybe its also a good thing that there is little additional content, that means the film has space to breathe, c'mon Criterion, put that extra content on a second disc in future.

Image Quality

Criterion's release is created from a 35mm interpositive, that means it is just one generation away from the original camera negative, it's presented in it's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and there is a lot of detail on display here and i really enjoyed the presentation on offer here, the image has such a gorgeous film look to it and while it's not super pin sharp it looks like you would expect a pristine film print to look when projected onto a large screen, i don't think you can ask for anything more than the blu ray release to represent the film as it was shot and i believe that is the case here.

I often read comments from people saying it shouldn't matter how good the transfer is, you should be able to enjoy a movie regardless of the image quality, while i agree with some of that sentiment i would say it is much easier to enjoy a blu ray release on a projection screen if the transfer is high quality and looks like film, if it looks poor then you tend to notice these things more with the BD format, indeed in my opinion a well mastered DVD can sometimes be less offensive than a poorly mastered blu ray disc if one takes into account the lower resolution, its very rare a blu ray is that bad.

There are fluctuating grain levels depending on the scene and the odd speck here and there, i never found this to be a problem, i also wondered if there was a tiny bit of print damage approx 77 minutes into the film, thats a scene on the boat, it was probably just a front projection optical issue, there is no edge enhancement, no excessive dnr in use and nothing which overly distracted me from watching the film.

Sound Quality

The sound is 1 channel mono and comes through the center channel only, they have cleaned this track up and removed hiss and crackles, it's a PCM track and 24 bit at 1152kbp/s, i had no issue with Criterion giving us only a mono track as i am not a fan of most remixes, if they must give us a remix then i would prefer they spent the time and money on doing it right and that would mean going all the way back to the original sound elements, assuming they survive, and that would probably be costly.

Speech came across clear and precise, obviously no surround effects or channel panning on this track but from a purist's perspective you can't ask for anything more than what we have here, my only minor complaint is that i wish they had given us the option to play the mono track via the left and right speakers, not a big deal and i am happy enough with what they did give us, it probably sounds better than it did when playing in the cinema back in 1963.

Final Thoughts

James Coburn is just one of the star names in thriller, Charade.I am a huge cinema fan and love classic movies, Charade is most definately a classic film, it may not be remembered as fondly as Lawrence Of Arabia or The Wizard Of Oz, as just two examples, but it has impressive acting from two actors at the top of their game and a supporting cast that are all enjoying themselves immensely, its a fun film as long as you go into watching it with an open mind, remember it's a dialogue driven film, don't expect a fast moving action flick or you may end up disappointed.

Watch this for Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant and because they have superb lines of dialogue and play off each other wonderfully, if you go into this film knowing what to expect of it then you will be entertained and get more out of it. Criterion have released some great classic films on the blu ray format, not all have as good a transfer as Charade.

I hope this and other older movies sell well so that more classics are released, at the moment the market for older films on blu ray is not good, many do not sell well and we are deprived of some great films, i also believe studio's have short term thinking when it comes to their back catalogue of movies, they should be looking at long term profits and not expecting to make money immediately, make new 4K scans of all 35mm shot films in their library and look after their history and learn to promote their older films better.

I loved every moment of Charade and look forward to buying more Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn films on blu ray, of course not together as this was the only film they made with each other, its true when they say they do not make them like this anymore, that's why i find it a pleasure to buy a film in high definition like this on blu ray.