Hot Fuzz and To Catch a Thief
This month I watched an old favorite from Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz (2007) and an old movie I had never seen before from Alfred Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief (1955). I really didn't know anything about To Catch a Thief except that Steven Soderbergh used it for inspiration for Ocean's 12 and that it seems to be a bit of a romantic comedy and heist movie.
Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz is a movie about an over achieving London police officer played by Simon Pegg that is making everyone else look bad so he is transferred to the country to get him out of the way. Pegg’s character, Nicolas Angel, had broken up with his girlfriend played by Cate Blanchett’s eyes so he takes his few belongings to his new post in Sandford. Sandford is a sleepy village green town populated by Kinks songs, a creepy former James Bond, and crusty jugglers. Crusty jugglers! Angel is partnered up with Nick Frost’s Danny Butterman character, a childlike man whose policing experience comes through action movies. Together, Angel and Danny learn to love action movies, peace lilies and each other, in a twist on romantic comedies. After a series of murders around town, Angel uncovers a cult-like conspiracy of the town’s elders who are killing to preserve the bucolic village charm of Sandford and for the greater good. The greater good. Angel rides back to town as a fully equipped action hero, kills or injures all of the conspirators, does all of the paperwork then settles down to enjoy the village green.
To Catch a Thief, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is the story of a retired cat burglar and former member of the French resistance during World War II played by Cary Grant. He is an innocent man on the run as someone who knows his old tricks is setting him up for a heist that he did not pull. Grant’s character galivants to the French Riviera with the daughter of one of his resistance pals, Danielle Foussard. She might be more of a stalker than someone traveling with him, she just shows up where he is. Grant’s character is troubled that someone else is stealing jewels in a cat-like manner and putting the fuzz on his tail because he has been trying to clear his name for quite some time. While trying to solve the mystery on his own without the aid of the police who are much more likely to lock him up than listen to his pleas, he goes to an insurance man to get some assistance. He wants to know who the biggest targets on the French Riviera would be and the insurance guy eventually offers up information of the biggest targets with dollar amounts to a known thief, current or former. The insurance man figures, why the hell not? Insurance is just gambling! It’s not my money! Hey, you’re really tan! This gets Grant in contact with Gracy Kelly and her jewelry loving mother. Ms. Kelly quickly falls for Grant and his tan hurling herself into a love triangle with the younger Foussard. Seeing as she’s no slouch, Kelly figures out who Grant truly is and suspects that he might be after the cat burglar goods. This doesn’t keep her from throwing some romantic fireworks at Grant in the middle of a fireworks display that is second only to the train going into the tunnel at the end of North By Northwest. The old resistance buddy gets killed mid-cat-burgle and his daughter turns on Grant, blaming him for the death. Unfortunately, the dead burglar had a wooden leg and couldn’t have been the cat, so Grant’s search wasn’t over, hell there was still twenty minutes of run-time left. It turns out the daughter, Danielle, was the real cat burglar and Grant gets her to confess in front of the authorities while dangling her from a roof. And that cleared up that. Fireworks.
To Catch a Thief is one of Hitchcock’s “man on the run” movies that’s a bit of a precursor to James Bond movies. Dr. No didn’t come out for another seven years, and before it came out Hitchcock had a few of these kinds of movies, North By Northwest, Sabotuer, Foreign Correspondent, The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train and To Catch a Thief. In each, man has to evade people who are on his tail to solve a mystery or clear their own name, often in picturesque locations and often involving a heart thumping car chase. Along the way, these embattled men always find a way into charming a beautiful and usually blond lady into a romance. To Catch a Thief doesn’t have the espionage angle that many of these other films have, but the large scale car chases and vistas of the French Riviera.
It’s pretty interesting that Hitchcock was such an influence on the hyper-masculine James Bond as he often worked with gay or bisexual lead actors, Cary Grant was pretty deep in the closet, Fairly Granger was bisexual, and Anthony Perkins was pretty tortured by his sexuality or the tabloid coverage of it, he only had gay relationships until his first heterosexual expierece when he was 39, marrying a woman when he was 41. Some of this might be because Hitch had his own style of Bond Women, Hitchcock Blondes, that he was enamored with, and it seems that he could be rather sexually harassing of his actresses, to say the least. Some of his casting of his main actors could have been so that he could feel less competition for the affection of the actresses, or he could have just not cared about the sexual preferences of others. The latter seems to at least be a little bit true because of his bold inclusions of LGBT characters that he would sneak past the sensors and the studios.
Hot Fuzz plays with the expectations of sexuality in genre films in the relationship of the Pegg and Frost characters. While they aren’t necessarily gay characters, their friendship is played as though they are romantic interests in a romantic comedy that are trapped in an action film. This isn’t the first time Pegg, Frost and director Edgar Wright played with expectations of sexuality in their work, Frost’s hyper-militaristic character in their TV show Spaced is a gay man whose sexuality is never addressed as a plot point in the show or treated as a subject of outward comedy. An early version of the Hot Fuzz script had a female love interest for Pegg’s character in the town of Sandford, but that character went away in subsequent drafts and the storyline was given to Frost’s character. They have a platonic relationship, but it is still a loving relationship.
These are both pretty fun relationship movies with a bit of action. Hot Fuzz has a bit more action and is also probably the more watchable movie, as are all of Edgar Wright’s films. When it comes to hardwear, Grace Kelly won an Oscar in the ‘50’s as the only non-honorary winner in To Catch a Thief and Hot Fuzz has its very own Oscar winners hiding in the cast. Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett never shows more than her eyes as Simon Pegg’s CSI ex-girlfriend, but the most recent winner was hardly a household name when Hot Fuzz came out. 2019 Best Actress winner Olivia Coleman was the bawdy Sandford police officer, a bit role that she played quite well.
One other fun connection, but hardly as decorated, is the connection between Hot Fuzz and the British sci-fi comedy Hyperdrive. It is a bit of a comedic take on Star Trek starring Nick Frost as the captain. His second in command on the ship is another one of the Sandford police officers, Kevin Eldon, the officer that has the Spider-Man face paint at the Sandford fair. Hyperdrive ran for two series from 2006 to 2007 and Frost and Eldon were in Hot Fuzz in 2007.
Very often I get myself to sleep by listening to Movies by Minute podcasts. For 15 minutes to an hour these daily podcasts with break down, joke and just chat about a movie, one minute at a time. They’re pretty entertaining and easy to fall asleep to. The first one I listened to was the first to come along and be especially popular, Star Wars Minute. I later got into Back to the Future Minute, Spider-Man Minute and now Cornetto Minute. Cornetto Minute covers the three “cornetto flavours” movies from Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, named for the freezer icecream cones that make appearances in each movie. I am in the midst of listening to the Hot Fuzz series of the podcast so the movie has kind of been invading my dreams.
This was a pretty entertaining pairing of movies even if they both have much more natural pairing based on influences, Ocean's 12 with To Catch a Thief (not sure I'd be up for a deep dive on the least interesting Ocean's movie) and Hot Fuzz with either Point Break or Bad Boys II.
Next Month: Jackie Brown and The Family Plot. The latest Quentin Tarantino movie, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, just came out so I figured it would be a good time to watch one of my most favorite movies from him, Jackie Brown, and a Hitchcock movie that oddly, sort of has a Tarantino feel to it, The Family Plot. It doesn't hurt the connection that Bruce Dern is in both The Family Plot and Once Upon a Time.