Charade Review

All Reggie Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) ever wanted from her marriage was honesty and money. The latter is obviously plentiful judging by the luxurious skiing holiday she is enjoying, but the former leaves somewhat to be desired. It has come to the point that Reggie no longer knows who Charlie, her husband, actually is so divorce seems the obvious outcome. Arriving home, she finds her once luxurious Parisian house all but emptied of all its belongings. To top a perfect day, she can also wave goodbye to all the paperwork involved in a divorce since Charlie has done the good thing and got himself murdered. The police as well as the CIA have reason to believe Charlie had a quarter of a million dollars stashed away somewhere - but there's also some rather aggressive criminals looking to get their hands on the money. Will her newfound friend Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) be able to help her out of this mess?

Charade often gets nominated as one of the top films ever made and it's hard to really disagree with that - despite borrowing heavily from Hitchcock, the script is clever, classy and witty with Hepburn and Grant playing somewhat stereotypical roles, one as the slightly naive but good-hearted damsel in distress and the other as the rough-around-the-edges orange-tinted gentleman. However, there is more to Charade than the dynamic leading couple; the minor roles were assigned to equally able hands such as Walter Matthau as the quirky American attaché and James Coburn playing a shady underworld thug. The cinematography avoids looking overly like Hitchcock in part thanks to a use of real locations (something that Hitchcock avoided at all costs). One could criticise the film for being somewhat overly slapstick at times or rather self-conscious but the Parisian setting and the general joie-de-vivre that exudes from each frame of it (including the murder scenes) make this a delectable piece of classical cinema. Unsurprisingly. Charade may not be as good as its immediate inspirations (North by North West, Rear Window) but it is pretty nigh close to them. It does however give one a pang of nostalgia to realise that a star vehicle will never be as much fun as this ever again. Thankfully, the remake has already flopped so we won't have to watch Clooney and J Lo acting this one out in the near future.

The DVD:

Despite this being a recent release, it seems to be a re-release of the original UK release of Charade which is not a good thing as you will see.

The Video:
Quite simply chronically poor - I think this may be the worst DVD transfer I've ever seen. The print is quite dirty with a plethora of black spots and other forms of damage, the transfer is blocky with excessive edge enhancement and the films is unwatchable as a result. We don't even get an anamorphic transfer so there's nothing positive to say about it.

The sound:
Compared to the video this is acceptable but seems a little lacking with occasional dropouts and mixing issues. We get the original mono which for purists is appreciable but it would have been nice to clean it up a little more.

The extras:
These include an equally dodgy transfer of the trailer (with Cary Grant doing the voice-over) and some excerpts from Cary Grant's and Hepburn's first screen appearances.

As the film was released a short time after the Kennedy assassination, the studios felt the use of the word "assassinate" was going to upset the audiences so they dubbed it out. However, the original cut is included (in B&W) along with the censored version. Finally, we have a decent commentary from Ken Barnes which includes recording of interviews he had with Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini. It is a little lacking in vigour but globally he does a good job of analysing the film in great depth and giving a background to it.


Despite some good extras, this edition should be avoided at all costs due to the dreadful quality of the image. I'm not sure what Sanctuary were thinking of re-releasing this given the flack it received when it was originally released. Charade deserves a far better treatment than this shoddy, second-rate effort.

9 out of 10
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out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 12:16:28

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