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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Thief [Blu-ray]

 

(Michael Mann, 1981)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Mann/Caan Productions

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #691 / Arrow Films

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' / Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Director's Cut Runtime: 2:04:41.474 / 2:04:36.969

Theatrical Cut: 2:03:10.257

Disc Size: 43,728,410,092 bytes / 47,487,566,558 bytes

Theatrical Cut Disc Size: 38,823,100,006 bytes

Feature Size: 35,493,795,840 bytes / 40,231,259,520 bytes

Theatrical Cut Feature Size: 38,372,920,896 bytes

Video Bitrate: 32.48 Mbps / 34.99 Mbps (both DC and Th.)

Chapters: 31 / 12 / 13

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case / Limited Slipcase Edition [3000 units] featuring two versions of the film

Release date: January 14th, 2014 / January 26th, 2015

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3314 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3314 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Director's Cut:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3343 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3343 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Theatrical:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Isolated Score:

LPCM Audio Undetermined 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles (both):

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Audio commentary featuring Mann and actor James Caan
New interviews with Mann (24:18), Caan (10:39), and Johannes Schmoelling of the band Tangerine Dream (15:40), which contributed the film’s soundtrack
Trailer (1:53)
One Blu-ray and one DVD, with all content available in both formats
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Nick James

 

• Optional isolated music and effects track on the theatrical cut
Audio commentary by writer-director Michael Mann and actor James Caan
The Directors: Michael Mann a 2001 documentary on the filmmaker, containing interviews with Mann, James Belushi, William Petersen, Jon Voight and others (59:28)
Stolen Dreams - a new interview with Caan, filmed exclusively for this release (14:32)
Hollywood USA: James Caan an episode of the French TV series Ciné regards devoted to the actor, filmed shortly after Thief had finished production (24:38)
The Art of the Heist - an examination of Thief with writer and critic F.X. Feeney, author of the Taschen volume on Michael Mann (1:06:29)
Theatrical trailer (1:53)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Brad Stevens

 

Bitrate:

1) Criterion (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Arrow (Director's Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow (Theatrical Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

Description: The contemporary American auteur Michael Mann burst out of the gate, his bold artistic sensibility fully formed, with Thief, his debut feature. James Caan stars, in one of his most riveting performances, as a no-nonsense ex-con safecracker planning to leave the criminal world behind after one final diamond heist, but discovering that escape is not as simple as he hoped. Finding hypnotic beauty in neon and rain-slick streets, sparks and steel, Thief effortlessly established the moody stylishness and tactile approach to action that would also define such later iconic entertainments from Mann as Miami Vice, Manhunter, and Heat.

 

 

The Film:

In Thief, James Caan plays Frank, a professional jewel thief who wants to marry Jessie (Tuesday Weld) and settle down into a normal life. In order to achieve his dream of a family, Frank--who is used to working solo--has to align himself with a crime boss named Leo (Robert Prosky), who will help him gain the money he needs to begin his domestic life. Frank plans to retire after the heist, yet he finds himself indebted to Leo and he struggles to break free. Thief is the first feature film from director Michael Mann and it seethes with his stylish, atmospheric direction. Though his cool approach may put off some viewers, it's a distinctive and effective story-telling approach, and Caan's performance ranks among his very best, making Thief a crime movie like few others.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

A silently professional night-time jewel robbery, reduced to near-abstract essentials and paced by a Tangerine Dream score, sets the electric tone for Mann's fine follow-up to The Jericho Mile: a philosophical thriller filled with modernist cool. Caan's the thief, contradictorily building and risking a future mapped out as meticulously as any of his lucrative hi-tech jobs; testing his emotional and criminal independence to the limits; eventually recognising that he's either exercising or exorcising a death wish.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Thief on Blu-ray from Criterion looks highly advanced and superior compared to the original non-anamorphic SD many have owned for almost a decade. This is advertised as a "New digital restoration from a 4K film transfer of the director’s cut, approved by director Michael Mann".  The image has some teal-leaning but most colors seem true with the welding and fire sequences looking impressively bright.  This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film with a hint of grain. Contrast is strong and supports some excellent detail. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio They are infrequent examples of depth. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a very pleasing 1080P presentation.

 

The Arrow has both a 'Director's Cut' (very similar to the Criterion image, also from a from a new 4K film transfer, approved by director Michael Mann) and a 1080P Theatrical Cut on a second Blu-ray that has much earthier tones and is slightly cropped (in comparison). Arrow has max'ed out the bitrate on both Blu-rays and their DC shows a bit more grain texture than the Criterion. I actually appreciate the color scheme of the Theatrical and it's a great addition to the UK package.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Criterion (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Arrow (Director's Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow (Theatrical Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Arrow (Director's Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow (Theatrical Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Arrow (Director's Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow (Theatrical Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Arrow (Director's Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow (Theatrical Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

More Director's Cut Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Criterion advance the film's rich aura with a stellar DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at a healthy 3314 kbps. There are some impressive separations but the film benefits greatly from Tangerine Dream score's lossless rendering. The German (Berlin School) electronic music group's unique sound establishes dark moods that mirror Mann's noirish underbelly visuals. For fans of the film this is, perhaps, even more impacting than the HD image. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Arrow's Director's Cut has a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at a healthy 3343 kbps and the option of a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps. I can determine no difference in the Criterion and Arrow surround tracks and the Arrow stereo sounds solid - supporting the higher end of the Tangerine Dream's electronic-techno soundtrack very well. Very tight with plenty of treble. On Arrow's theatrical cut we get only a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps and a similar transfer for the optional isolated score. Both have optional English (SDH) subtitles and both Blu-ray discs are region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

Criterion include the, sometimes awkward, audio commentary featuring Mann and actor James Caan recorded in 1995 and found on past DVDs. I found it informative, if less polished - which is probably appropriate as the film always has an air of vérité realism. There are some new, 2013, interviews with Mann - discussing the production and his memories of for almost 25-minutes, James Caan similar for over 10-minutes including a focus on preparation for his character, and 15-minutes of Johannes Schmoelling of the band Tangerine Dream (in German with English subtitles), which contributed the film’s soundtrack. There is also a trailer and the package contains both Blu-ray and a DVD, with all content available in both formats as well as a booklet featuring an essay by critic Nick James.

 

Aside from the aforementioned optional isolated music and effects track - found only on the theatrical cut, all other Arrow, digital, supplements are on the Director's Cut Blu-ray. We get the same audio commentary by writer-director Michael Mann and actor James Caan, as found on the Criterion plus some new video extras as well as the hour-long 'The Directors: Michael Mann', 2001, documentary on the filmmaker, containing interviews with Mann, James Belushi, William Petersen, Jon Voight and others. There is also Stolen Dreams - a new, 15-minute, interview with Caan, filmed exclusively for this release and Hollywood USA (25-minutes) showing James Caan in an episode of the French TV series Ciné regards , English with burned-in French subtitles, devoted to the actor, filmed shortly after Thief had finished production, in 1982. The Art of the Heist runs over an hour and is an examination of Thief with writer and critic F.X. Feeney, author of the Taschen volume on Michael Mann. It is excellent and a wonderful education on the film. Lastly, on the disc, we have a theatrical trailer and the package contains a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm and an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Brad Stevens. We should note that this is a limited slipcase edition [3000 units].

 

1) Criterion (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  LEFT

2) Arrow (Director's Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

 

Arrow Disc 2 (Theatrical Cut) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Great, and memorable, film from the 80s. Thief remains edgy, focusing on a resilient, uncompromising, protagonist, and the soundtrack is unique and highly impressive - especially in the lossless rendering. Criterion's Blu-ray package offers some new interview supplements and a solid 1080P image of a highly re-watchable film. Strongly recommended!

 

Great release! Arrow seems to have eclipsed Criterion on every front, offering a more textured DC, the inclusion of the 'Theatrical' in HD (on a separate BD), more extras and a totally complete package. Our highest recommendation!  

Gary Tooze

December 31st, 2013

January 16th, 2015

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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