New from Criterion: A Sparkling ‘Charade’


Criterion, a trendsetter in deluxe laser discs, is now setting the standard in the digital format. Three of its recent Criterion Collection DVDs are remarkable.

First up is the special edition of the 1963 romantic thriller “Charade” ($40), starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It’s fab, fab, fabulous. Most video prints of this delightful, Hitchcockian film set in Paris are faded and washed out. This DVD presents the Stanley Donen-directed mystery in its original aspect ratio for the first time and in the wide-screen letterbox format. The print is beautiful. The colors are crisp and vibrant, and Hepburn and Grant have never looked more glorious. In fact, “Charade” looks like it was just made yesterday.

This caper finds Hepburn as a Parisian whose mysterious husband is murdered and discovers that four men are stalking her for a fortune he supposedly hid away. Grant plays a handsome stranger who comes to Hepburn’s aid, though he really isn’t what he first appears to be. James Coburn, George Kennedy and a very funny Walter Matthau also star in this hit, which was penned by Peter Stone.


The disc includes the original theatrical trailer and an introduction by Donen biographer Stephen M. Silverman, as well as a recap of Stone’s career highlights.

Also included is commentary from Donen and Stone, who banter back and forth like an old married couple. Donen explains that “Charade” marked the first time he used Henry Mancini as a composer and chose him after listening to his popular score from “Hatari.” The clever title sequence was created by Maurice Binder, who later went on to do the classic openings for the Bond movies.

Stone says that seven studios turned down his screenplay for “Charade.” He then transformed it into a novel, which was excerpted in Redbook, and all of a sudden, the seven studios were vying for the chance to do the movie.

One of the funniest moments occurs when Grant takes a shower in front of Hepburn in his suit. Stone says that, originally, Grant didn’t want to do the scene because he thought it made him look silly. He refused for nearly three days, then finally relented. Stone reports that Grant enjoyed himself so much that he began to ad-lib and even wanted to wear Hepburn’s shower cap.

“Charade” was originally released in November 1963, right after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Stone realized before it opened that in one scene, Hepburn and Grant mention the word assassinate twice. Stone and Donen were able to dub in the word eliminate for assassinate. This version, though, restores the original dialogue to the sequence.

Next up from Criterion is the special edition of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock classic “The 39 Steps” ($40), starring Robert Donat as a Canadian living in London who is falsely accused of murder. Madeline Carroll also stars.


The disc features a new digital transfer with restored picture and sound. Though the print still shows some wear and tear in it, it is far superior to anything that has been shown on TV or released on video. Also included are the original production design drawings, excerpts from the original 1935 press book, and the 1937 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film, performed by Robert Montgomery and Ida Lupino. The quality of the broadcast is superb.

“The Art of Film: Vintage Hitchcock,” narrated by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., is a concise Janus Films documentary from the 1970s that chronicles Hitchcock’s British period.

Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane provides the esoteric audio commentary. She talks extensively about Hitchcock’s use of camera angles, as well as how this film foreshadowed his 1959 classic “North by Northwest.”

Rounding out the Criterion releases is “Peeping Tom” ($40), the controversial 1960 Michael Powell thriller starring Carl Boehm and Anna Massey. Boehm plays a cameraman who becomes so obsessed with capturing fear on film, he photographs women as he kills them. Though now considered a masterwork, “Peeping Tom” shocked British critics and audiences, who thought it resembled a snuff film. Powell, who had directed such classics as “The Red Shoes” with his partner, Emeric Pressburger, took so much heat he ended up leaving the country.

The DVD features the print in the wide-screen anamorphic format, the theatrical trailers, rare production stills and a wonderful British TV documentary, “A Very British Psycho,” directed by Chris Rodley. The documentary focuses on Leo Marks, the writer of “Peeping Tom,” a mysterious, brilliant man who broke codes during World War II. Also included are interviews with critics and film historians, as well as Boehm and Massey. Film theorist Laura Mulvey provides the highbrow, shot-by-shot commentary.