Thursday, 30 April 2009

Movie Review - Charade

When Regina (Audrey Hepburn)’s husband dies, all sorts of strange things happen. Her late husband had been converting all of his goods into cash shortly before he died, but the money has also disappeared. When Regina meets Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), he appears to be interested in her but obviously knows more than he’s telling. When three men she’s never met turn up at the (extremely small) funeral service she finds that they all want their share of the loot – and have strong reasons for believing they are entitled to it – and are none too pleased when the money has vanished.. Or did she already know about it? When government official Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau) becomes interested in the case, things get even more complicated. And then people start dying…

A hilarious romantic comedy set in Paris ensues.

Or so the blurb would have us believe. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t true. Grant’s lines are lame in the extreme and he seems as puzzled by them as the viewer – I don’t think I managed a single smile at the dialogue throughout the whole film (which, considering there has never been anyone better at delivering tongue-twisting, witty dialogue than Grant, shows just how bad it is!). Hepburn is more annoying than cute. Grant seemed well past hi “Best Before” date in this (he was 59 so I guess he can be forgiven for this!) and only made two more films after this. The supporting cast (including James Coburn and Herman Scobie) don’t have much chance to save the film, though Matthau is very watchable. The plot sounds promising enough (in fact with the plotline and the star-studded cast you it looks on paper like a sure-fire winner), but absolutely nothing is made of it – it develops ponderously with a predictable twist in the end. The music by Henry Mancini is touted as being “memorable”, but is nothing special at all. What few special effects there are seem pretty week even given that the film was released in 1963.

What compounds the problem is that the transfer to DVD no special features btw) is awful – the picture is grainy, the lighting hard on the eyes, and the sound quality so appalling that large sections of dialogue are incomprehensible. Unfortunately as an overall product it only deserves one star. Fans of Grant, Heburn, or Coburn would be much better off searching out some of the old black & white classics with them in and avoid this one like the plague.

I can’t believe that everyone has rated this film so highly, but then I suppose it’s all subjective. Another very popular Grant film (heralded by a classic by many) that I thought was pretty awful was “North by Northwest”. And that being Hitchcock too… sometimes even I wonder how I didn’t like it… I’ve yet to see a colour film with Grant in that I liked, and can’t remember a b&w film starring him that I didn’t!

If that makes me odd, then so be it – enough other things make me odd without it so it’s not really a worry. Charade just didn’t work for me on any level at all.

I’ve (so far) only reviewed one other film starring Grant, which was also in colour and also, to my mind, a disaster: An Affair To Remember.

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