How To Steal a Million Review

From the moment Audrey Hepburn turns up, driving perhaps the silliest bright red Noddy car of a vehicle ever seen in a film, magnificently clad in white Givenchy and sporting the kind of feline sunglasses she immortalised in ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’, it’s clear that ‘How To Steal A Million’ is going to be a case of style over substance (the impression is cemented a few minutes later when Peter O’Toole, immaculately clad in a dinner jacket, hops into his own car, a gorgeous lemon E-type). However, whereas the previous entry in the Fox Classics series, ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ was all froth and no sparkle, ‘How To Steal A Million’, the 25th entry in that collection, has got some wit tucked up its well-manicured sleeve. Most importantly, it’s cognisant of its own silliness and willing to play up to it.

Young Parisian lovely Nicole Bonnet (Hepburn) is having a devil of a time persuading her recidivist father Charles (Griffith) to cease his favourite past-time: the forging of works by the masters. When he lends his fake of a Cellini statue to a museum which is under the impression it’s the original, Nicole grows uneasy. Her concern grows to panic which she discovers that the museum is planning to subject the statue to tests that will reveal it’s a fake, and her father a fraudster! Desperate, she enlists the aid of self-proclaimed art thief Simon Dermott (O’Toole) to get the statue back, not realising he’s actually a private investigator specialising in stolen art! As Nicole and Simon undertake to steal the statue from the heavily-guarded museum, they make an unexpected discovery; their feelings for each other are anything but counterfeit!

As far as light-hearted 60s comedies go, ‘How To Steal a Million’ is eminently well qualified. Its two reed thin, immaculately-clad leads are pitch perfect and the magnificently bug-eyed Hugh Griffith (probably best known to audiences as The Magistrate in ‘Oliver Twist’ or the Sheikh from Wyler's own 'Ben Hur') is always entertaining, There’s a breezy theme from Johnny Williams, superb production Design by Alexander Trauner and even a brief, curious cameo from Charles Boyer. What more, indeed, could one want?

Best of all there's Hepburn, who never disappointed. Part of Hepburn’s charm was that, while she was one of the most effortlessly graceful actresses to ever grace the screen, she always gave the impression of being most comfortable in a pair of dungarees. The combination of high chic and tomboyish enthusiasm was not only at the core of her appeal, it was - not coincidently - the very essence of the 60s, and it's in abundance here.

This is one of the best transfers I've seen of a 60s film, excelling even the very high standards Fox has set itself. Quite superb. Some may find it a trifle red but I suspect the sometimes lurid sets are partly to blame. These colours are so rich you could chew them, were it not for their doubtless stratospheric calorific values.

A fine Stereo mix that presents the film's soundtrack faithfully if not spectacularly. Dialogue is crisp without being brittle the bouncy score sounds slightly tinny at times but otherwise fine. A mono mix is also available and could prove preferable to some viewers, though the differences didn't sound huge to these ears.

Special Features
Catherine Wyler, the director’s daughter, gives a thorough film commentary describing her father’s approach to the film, his experiences when making it and some stories he shared with her. While Wyler gives a broad historical perspective, Eli Wallach provides some personal anecdotes and reflection, talking comparatively rarely.

‘Audrey Hepburn: The Fairest Lady’ is a 45-minute documentary, part of the A&E Network’s Biography series. It follows the Belgian-born beauty through her early years in war-torn Holland, her time as a chorus girl in London, to being spotted by Collette as the perfect ‘Gigi’, her debut on Broadway in the play’s starring role and subsequent entry into Hollywood and legend in Wyler’s ‘Roman Holiday’. It’s handsomely done and as thorough as the time allows, if a bit fluffy in parts, and features soundbites from Hepburn’s son Sean Ferrer, actors Harry Belafonte and Richard Dreyfuss and director Blake Edwards.

There’s also a Teaser Trailer, the Theatrical Trailer and two (oddly black and white) TV Spots.

At over two hours, ‘How to Steal a Million’ is definitely too long, its slight plot would have been more comfortable hanging onto a 90 minute frame. The script, to be frank, doesn't quite sparkle as much as Audrey’s similar outings in ‘Charade’ or ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ but there is fun here aplenty and the video is simply stunning. Points again to Fox for providing a choice of mono or stereo soundtracks and for treating their back catalogue with the respect it deserves.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:24:21

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