Customer Reviews: Charade
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on May 3, 2001
Anybody else out there own three copies of Charade on DVD?

It's a great movie, yeah, but not worth three copies. Well, maybe the lesson was worth three copies. The first one took me by surprise. Front Row Features put it out. Nice looking jewel case with the word LETTERBOX EDITION across the top. I had to have it. Couldn't wait to watch it. It was the worst piece of crap I'd ever seen shoveled onto DVD. Faded colors. Blurry pictures. Horrid sound that kept breaking up. It was worse than my ten-year-old VHS copy. I was mortified. Then someone told me there was a copy out there by a company called Criterion Collection, but the price was $40.00. No way, I thought, am I paying that much for a movie.

Next copy I bought was put out by Diamond Entertainment. I'll give them their due. They did a fairly good job of cleaning up whatever print they used. The picture is pretty good; color still slightly washed out, some flickering that's annoying. The sound has been repaired. So what you get is about a C+ to a low B- for this DVD. I like Diamond. And compared to the road kill that Front Row Features served up, the Diamond Entertainment version is a seven-course meal in the finest restaurant.

At last, I couldn't stand it any longer. I went for the Criterion Collection version. I know, I know. Three copies. But the Front Row Features DVD will be thrown into the trash; I won't even subject a stranger at a garage sale to that basement torture trash. The Diamond Entertainment version, which is not a bad copy, just not the best, I'll hand over to my brother as a free-bee gift. He likes the movie, as well, and is even less likely than I to put out the cash.

But then there's the Criterion Collection version. This IS the SEVEN COURSE MEAL AT THE FINEST RESTAURANT, topped off with the finest drinks and entertainment, and a check at the end that says ON THE HOUSE! Everything great anyone has said about the Criterion Collection DVD of Charade is true. It's beautiful. The sound is perfect. The color heavenly. There are no age spots what so ever, no dropouts, none of the flickering that indicates the film was damaged and had to be spliced. It's a beautiful widescreen transfer from a 33mm interpositive. I'd never seen the original trailer for this film till I bought this DVD; it's funny, it's charming, it gets you primed for the movie. There is an Audio Commentary with director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone. And some great career highlights on Peter Stone's career.

It took me three times to get it right (and that won't happen again, at least with DVDs), but get it right I did. Don't ever buy the Front Row Features version; if you already have it, burn it. NOW. If you can't afford the Criterion version, go ahead and get the Diamond Entertainment version; as always, they do a good job for a low price. But if you want the absolute best presentation of this movie, if you want to see the movie as it has not been seen since it was in the theater almost 40 years ago, find the Criterion Collection DVD. You will not be disappointed.
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on December 28, 2000
I got this DVD for Christmas and I wasn't disappointed. Stanley Donen, director of musicals such as "Singin' In The Rain" starring Gene Kelly, brought together Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn (who looks luminous, as always) in this wonderfully-written story about a Parisian widow (Hepburn) who is being pursued by three dangerous men (two of which are played by George Kennedy - an excellent "heavy" - and James Coburn at his most menacing) who want to find out about a large sum of money her dead husband supposedly had. Grant is the helpful stranger but eventually you begin to wonder: is he working with these men? Does he want the money for himself? Or is he really the handsome, older man Audrey finds herself falling in love with?
Enhanced by a lush score by the late Henry Mancini, photographed beautifully in Paris and containing first-rate acting and deliciously wicked dialogue by writer Peter Stone, "Charade" is a film that should be in every serious DVD collection. Grant is older but better, like fine wine, and Ms. Hepburn ... well there have been millions of words used to describe her and I can't add to them other than to say the world lost a marvelous talent at her death.
You'll enjoy "Charade" for a long, long time.
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on February 15, 2008
There are a lot of different releases of this movie on DVD, some of poor quality. If you can afford it, the Criterion Collection release (make sure it's the anamorphic one, not the earlier letterboxed version) is the best, in that it has a fine widescreen transfer and a commentary by the director.

But if you're a normal human, the one to get happens to be almost the cheapest one to get used (as I write this), and isn't too expensive new either. It's the version on side B of The Truth About Charlie. That version comes from Universal, the studio that produced Charade, and is a clean anamorphic widescreen transfer with fairly good color and sharpness. It's got a few specks at the beginning but is good after the credits. No extras, except for that other movie on side A. (I haven't seen The Truth about Charlie, but it's apparently a mediocre update of Charade.)

I've also looked at the Madacy release, and it's just OK, a nonanamorphic widescreen transfer, grainier than the Universal Studios transfer that comes with The Truth About Charlie. It comes with a fun extended trailer. Also included is a poor transfer of another movie that happens to be named Charade, but otherwise has nothing to do with this one. (That other Charade has James Mason in it, but I haven't watched it through yet to know if it's any good.) I've heard the Madacy release is as good as any of the "off-brand" ones.

All of the the versions have mono sound.

The film itself is delightful, cleverly constructed and scripted, with some fine actors hamming it up in supporting roles to go with Grant and Hepburn. Good for for both suspense and romantic comedy. Even better the second time. But there are plenty of other reviews with plenty to say about the film (click the Criterion or Madacy link to see over 200 more).
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on December 15, 1999
First and foremost, this is a very enjoyable movie. It was very enjoyable in 1963 and it remains enjoyable today. The actors, the story, and the cinematic craft are all first rate.
This Criterion release is fantastic. Most of the video is absolutely flawless with well-saturated colors and an absence of artifacts. Even shots of Coburn's checked shirt are free of compression artifacts or aliasing which is common to this kind of shot. The audio is fine considering it is mono and mastered in 1963. There are a few rare blemishes noticeable on the screen that look like problems with the source media but that is nowhere near as offensive as artifacts or aliasing.
The fun bonus on this edition is the writer and director commentary! For those of us that like this sort of thing, this is a very enjoyable example. Listening to these two, what?, 70-year-olds bicker back and forth is a complete crack-up!
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on November 29, 1999
Do not buy this DVD! This is a very bad print and the master contains video drop outs. If I can't return it for credit and buy the Criterion version, I will burn it and chalk it up as a reminder never to buy a low cost version of anything worth watching. I am sorry, Criterion, I will never waste my money on lower quality versions again.
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on August 14, 2008
I've struck out twice now in buying Charade. Both purchases were grainy and hardly what I would consider "restored". This particular edition is just okay, it is an upgrade from earlier copies but not exceptional by today's standard of visual clarity.

To second Sanpete's earlier suggestions, if you can afford it definitely buy the anamorphic Criterion Collection release, and if you're looking for high quality without the high price, go for the double-billed The Truth About Charlie dvd which includes Charade. Just make a note to never actually watching The Truth About Charlie.

To summarize, this particular copy of Charade is mediocre in quality, albeit the deceptively stellar cover-art.
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on July 13, 2013
For Blu-ray PQ fanatics only:

I owned three previous editions of this movie (two SD and the Criterion BD released in 2010). I've never encountered a case where a Criterion BD edition has been surpassed, but that appears to be true here. Only Picture Quality fanatics would be concerned about this; but if you're one, my subjective assessment is that Universal has managed to squeeze a bit more color and information out of their own release. The film itself is just not capable of being digitally massaged much more, IMHO. It has quite a few "soft" scenes that we just have to live with.
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on December 4, 1999
Bottom line is you get what you pay for, DO NOT BUY this version, it wasw made from a very bad copy of the movie! The ones that have played about a million time trough a projector. Spend the money and get the criterion version.
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on December 6, 1999
Amazon did indeed refund me for this DVD, but as above, be aware. This DVD is made from the same old lousy public domain print that you see on PBS every few months. This is a great film, and deserves a great copy. I'll be ordering the Criteria version soon (after x-mas shopping), and hope that lives up to expectations. This one doesn't even deserve to be on videotape!
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on February 26, 2000
And that includes the quality of this release. It just goes to show that you can take a great screenplay from a great book, cast some stellar Hollywood performers at their peaks, add clear expert direction, stunning location sets, stir in a Mancini score, and still end up with a painfully disappointing experience. Especially when you consider the promise of the new DVD format, and today's digital remastering techniques. Re-released through several small-time distributors (Front Row Entertainment of Canada, etc) Charade has been reduced to a sad caricature of it's original beauty. By using worn-out, poor-quality source for the transfer to DVD these distributors have marketed a product that is not only inferior to the existing VHS tape versions, but an insult to the DVD format. To see this type of travesty is to know the real tragedy of copyright expiration and it's resulting offspring--corporate greed at the expense of art, businesses reaping profits at the expense of unaware consumers, and worst of all...sometimes the loss of great examples of cinema magic. Thank goodness Criterion was able to resurrect what appears to be close to if not original film, and produce a release of Charade that shows what DVD is all about. If you haven't seen Charade, I won't spoil it by telling you the plot here. But whether you've seen it or not, I will tell you this: Spend the money and get the Criterion version for DVD, or save your money and buy the VHS tape version. Avoid the budget DVD versions at all costs--they're no bargain...just a waste. Enjoy!
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