Becket(1964) -  PICK

To Catch a Thief (1955))  -  PICK

Never before available on DVD, the Burton-O’Toole classic Becket at last gets its due. This week’s DVD release follows a laborious 2003 restoration and a limited theatrical re-release earlier this year.

The story is well known to Catholic viewers. In the 12th century, King Henry II of England (Peter O’Toole) elevated his chancellor and bosom companion Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) to the archbishopric of Canterbury. Becket strenuously objected the appointment because he foresaw that, as primate of England, he would be obliged to oppose Henry’s hard line toward the Church in England. The ensuing battle of wills ultimately led to Becket’s martyrdom at the hands of four knights in Henry’s service. (These events strikingly anticipate the later conflict of another English king named Henry who had another chancellor named Thomas who became a martyr and a saint — Henry VIII and Thomas More — as related in A Man for All Seasons.)

The one-disc edition includes a few extras, but, unfortunately, none holds any interest with respect to the film’s historical and religious themes. The audio commentary with Peter O’Toole mentions the film’s many historical inaccuracies, such as its depiction of Becket as a Saxon rather than a Norman, but is more interested in musings on different approaches to acting and the like than in the film’s subject matter. (Approach with caution: O’Toole offers some explicitly noncommittal comments on the nature of Henry and Thomas’ love, and remarks strangely on church and state in the modern world. Most bizarrely, in commenting on the historical events as an anticipation of the English Reformation, O’Toole describes Becket — not Henry — as “splitting the Church,” anticipating Henry VIII, and even becoming “Protestant” and “Methodist”!)

Other extras include a couple of archival interviews with Burton, neither of which discusses Becket. The reason to get the disc, or at least rent it, is the film itself.

Just in time for Mother’s Day — if Mother likes Cary Grant at his most debonair, Grace Kelly at her loveliest and Alfred Hitchcock at his most playful — is the offbeat romantic comedy-thriller To Catch a Thief, now available in a special collector’s edition.

The fluffy plot involves a former cat burglar called the Cat (Grant) living on the French Riviera, and a copycat burglar whose exploits leave the original Cat the prime suspect. Grace Kelly plays a beautiful American heiress who figures into the Cat’s plans in more ways than one — but is she the real thief herself?

Much copied in later years (Grant himself starred in one of the better ones, Charade), To Catch a Thief is Hitchcock lite — and that’s what makes it fun. Extras include a commentary by Peter Bognanovich and Laurent Bouzereau, four featurettes and a theatrical trailer.

Content advisory
Becket: Offscreen sexual immorality and some demeaning treatment of female characters; coarse language; some violence, including a murder/martyrdom. To Catch a Thief: Stylized violence, sexual innuendo. Both films for teens and up.