Paramount Home Video will release a Bluray of Alfred Hitchcock‘s To Catch A Thief on 3.6.12. This will be one of the eternals. The most recent DVD version (the ’09 Centennial Collection) is one of the few DVDs I own that is dense and sharp enough to look really great on my 50″ plasma. There’s no way the Bluray upgrade won’t be at least mildly breathtaking.

(l. to r.) The initial ’02 To Catch a Thief release; the ’07 Special Collectors editon, and the ’09 Special Centennial edition.

Catch a Thief DVD, which came out on 11.5.02, was thought even back then to be somewhere between nothing special and somewhat crappy. It made Burks’ large-format photography look like it was captured on regular 35mm.

Nearly five years later, on 5.8.07, came the To Catch a Thief Special Collectors Edition, which added (or restored) a strong greenish tint to the nighttime rooftop scenes, and looked truly exceptional when played on a Bluray player and shown on a decent-sized high-def screen. I was blown away when I looked at this version on my just-purchased Bluray player and 42″ plasma screen last November. It almost flirts with Bluray quality in certain scenes.

The Centennial Collection version delivered an improvement over the ’07 release.

I’ve never been more than mildly attracted to To Catch a Thief, but I’ve been in love with Robert Burks‘ VistaVision photography, which won the 1956 Best Cinematography Oscar, since I was in my mid teens. No film delivers the splendor of the Cote d’Azur, or is better at capturing that hazy-sunlight effect at midday and even the hillside and seaside aromas, which you can easily recollect and almost smell during a viewing.

Some of the film is engrossing as far as it goes, but among Hitch’s glorious 1950s films, Thief is easily his least substantial. That’s not a problem, but it’s mainly pleasurable for a kind of elegant-lull quality — the look, the framing, Cary Grant‘s mild-mannered performance, the easy-does-it vibe, the occasionally awesome editing. Not the “all” of it as much as the way it all kind of goes down like a swallow of champagne on a warm summer’s night on the Riviera. The way it mostly breezes along without any noticable sense of urgency.

This is perhaps the most significant divider between serious film lovers and people who just like movies. The former will always buy (not rent) the latest upgrade of this or that movie in order to have the finest rendering in order to simply look at the fucker — i.e., to sink into the visual bath of it and go “aahhh.” And the latter will rent this or that film on Netflix in order to watch the story and savor the emotional-aesthetic ride. They have no upgrade hunger and satisfied with “good enough” in the bitrate department.