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Fox Home Entertainment presents
How to Steal A Million (1966)

Simon: Your Cellini Venus?
Nicole: Well, it's not mine exactly; it's sort of in the family. Anyway, that should be no concern of yours.
Simon: You...you...you want to steal it? Why? Is it a publicity stunt?
Nicole: Oh no. It's very valuable. It's worth a million dollars!
Simon: I know. There are also a million policemen prowling 'round it. That works out to about a dollar a policeman. I don't like the rate of exchange.

- Peter O'Toole, Audrey Hepburn

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: December 06, 2004

Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Eli Wallach, Hugh Griffith, Charles Boyer
Director: William Wyler

Manufacturer: PDMC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:03m:18s
Release Date: December 07, 2004
UPC: 024543130390
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+AB B

DVD Review

It may not be Ocean's Eleven or even The Thomas Crown Affair, but William Wyler's How to Steal A Million serves up a slick, romantic heist that's easy to digest and lovely to look at. Paris provides the intoxicating backdrop, and Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole supply glamour and sex appeal. Although a thin story and talky screenplay often stall the film's engine, this frothy comedic caper runs quite smoothly on star power alone. With Hepburn modeling a chic array of Givenchy fashions and O'Toole flashing his cool baby blues, How to Steal A Million favors style over substance at every turn.

And there's nothing at all wrong with that. While far from one of Wyler's masterpieces—and he directed quite a few, including Ben-Hur and The Best Years of Our Lives (both of which earned him Academy Awards)—the breezy nature of How to Steal A Million makes it a refreshing departure for all involved, including the audience. There are far more painful ways to spend two hours than in the company of Hepburn and O'Toole, and though their talent consistently eclipses their material, somehow it doesn't matter; they seem to be having a ball, and as a result, so do we. Call me shallow, but I find it rather soothing to kick back and watch two gorgeous people romp around The City of Light trying to pull off a seemingly impossible bit of thievery, and fall in love along the way.

Hugh Griffith portrays Charles Bonnet (rhymes with Monet), an expert art forger who's amassed an enviable collection of classic fakes. His daughter Nicole (Hepburn) gently disapproves of his trade, but becomes concerned when Charles, amid great fanfare, lends his prized "Cellini" statue to a Paris museum. Charles basks in the attention, but Nicole's worries escalate when she learns the statue's insurance contract requires a certificate of authenticity. Fearing her father's ruin, a frantic Nicole enlists the services of suave cat burglar Simon Dermott (O'Toole) to help her steal the Cellini before it can be tested. The museum's state-of-the-art security system stands in their way, but Simon hatches a low-tech plan that's so ingenious, it just might work.

Had Wyler made How to Steal A Million a few years earlier, he probably would have cast Cary Grant as Simon, but O'Toole proves he can be equally charming and debonair. After such serious films as Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, and Lord Jim, O'Toole seems to enjoy the flirtatious repartee of light romantic comedy, and the genre agrees with him. He and Hepburn create instant chemistry, an essential building block for this type of film, and a lengthy, somewhat racy sequence in a cramped closet exploits it to perfection.

Draped in the finest haute couture (with jewels by Cartier to boot), Hepburn looks lovely throughout, and imbues her performance with typical spirit and sparkle. In her first movie since the stressful My Fair Lady, Hepburn looks utterly at ease, and it's fun to see her play a contemporary, slightly mod character with a madcap streak, much like the screwy socialites another Hepburn named Katherine immortalized a generation before. Whether she's rebuffing the attentions of eccentric millionaire Davis Leland (Eli Wallach), arriving at The Ritz in a frilly pink nightgown, or masquerading as a scrubwoman, Hepburn brightens each scene with her beauty and grace.

How to Steal A Million may not be a practical primer on the fine art of stealing art, but it's a pleasant, often stylish entertainment, marked by engaging performances and fluid direction from one of Hollywood's oldest master craftsmen. And although this star vehicle isn't quite a Rolls Royce, it reminds us just how powerful sheer personality can be.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Fox has fashioned a glorious anamorphic widescreen transfer—possibly the best yet in its Studio Classics series—distinguished by beautifully saturated hues that belie the single-strip color technology the film employs. Contrast and sharpness are excellent, and nary a speck or scratch sullies the pristine print. As a result, Hepburn, in all her Givenchy splendor, radiates glamour, and Paris doesn’t look too shabby either.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both stereo and mono tracks are included, and supply full-bodied if unspectacular sound. Dialogue remains clear and comprehendible throughout, and no surface defects or distortion could be detected. Stereo separation is limited at best, but effects like the blaring museum alarm easily fill the room. The snappy score, by a fellow named Johnny Williams, enjoys solid fidelity, but doesn't possess the same majesty as the music he penned for Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park, after he shortened his name to John. The elegance, however, is all Williams, and the score greatly enhances the film's light-hearted mood.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by actor Eli Wallach and Catherine Wyler
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: A couple of interesting extras flesh out the disc, beginning with an audio commentary by co-star Eli Wallach and Catherine Wyler, the director's daughter (recorded separately). Because a frothy film like How to Steal A Million requires little analysis, the comments aren't very scene specific, and the pair often struggles to sustain the track. Still, some noteworthy nuggets are sprinkled throughout. Wallach speaks sparingly, but offers especially insightful observations on the art of acting, and the subtle adjustments performers must make for various mediums. Wyler dominates the track, and understandably focuses on her father, relaying biographical information, pointing out trademark "Wyler touches," and discussing his directorial style and high regard for Audrey Hepburn (by far his favorite actor, she says). She also gives us a peek inside the Wyler family and their Hollywood home life when she was a child.

The disc's best supplement, however, is the documentary, Audrey Hepburn: The Fairest Lady, a 1997 Biography installment that beautifully captures the actress's ethereal essence. Charting her career "from international superstar to world class humanitarian," the 45-minute film chronicles Hepburn's war-torn childhood, intense desire to become a ballerina, and how "she became an actress by accident." It also addresses her 15-year marriage to actor Mel Ferrer, her struggles to have children, and her quiet yet intense dedication to UNICEF. Plenty of engaging clips from her best-loved films, a rare 1953 screen test, and interviews with Blake Edwards, Harry Belafonte, Roddy McDowell, Richard Dreyfuss, and son Sean Ferrer compliment this well-done portrait.

The film's original theatrical trailer, a teaser, and two rare black-and-white TV spots round out the extras package.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

The beauty of How to Steal A Million may only be skin deep, but with Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, the city of Paris, and art treasures galore, it's enough to make this charming caper a satisfying, if not wholly successful, diversion. Fox's luscious transfer and an excellent Hepburn documentary add luster to the disc.

 


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