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To Catch a King
"Um ... I got Richard Chamberlain and Faye Dunaway in The Woman I Love. Looks like a Victorian era thing."
"OK, this one's ... John Ritter and Carrie Fisher in Leave Yesterday Behind. 1978, ABC..."
"Put that in the maybe pile."
"Oh, how about The Beasts Are on the Streets? It's about a zoo that gets..."
"All I have left in this gunnysack full of Betamax tapes is To Catch a King. Robert Wagner and ... Teri Garr?"
"Done. Slap it onto a DVD and ship it on out. There's gotta be at least 19 people out there who want to own a TV-movie from 1984 that's as hilariously awful as it is justifiably forgotten."
"Hitchcock's Notorious Meets Casablanca in This Tale of International Espionage!" screams the back of the DVD case, to which I'd respectfully respond thusly:
Unless Hitchcock dabbled in cardboard cut-out set design, perpetually chuckle-worthy dialogue, acting performances that border on the absurd, and plot droplets so painfully familiar that you'll swear you have ESP, I don't think that To Catch a King has earned any sort of comparison. Perhaps this is the sort of movie that Sterling Hitchcock could have directed, but since Sterling Hitchcock is a pitcher for the San Diego Padres, please don't mistake that statement for praise.
Directed with leaden drabness by consistent hack Clive Donner (the man who brought you not only Don Adams in The Nude Bomb but also the Peter Sellers flotsam known as Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen), To Catch a King is an HBO-produced noir-wannabe featuring two poorly cast leads, a background populated by stock characters, and a screenplay that offers more howlers than an all-monkey zoo.
Teri Garr is asked to play a 1940s torch-singin' tough-gal who stumbles across a Nazi plot to kidnap the Duke of Windsor. The gal bumbles from Berlin to Paris to Lisbon, occasionally bouncing off of Nazi lieutenants who are really stupid, underground rebels with big mouths, and the eternally monotone Robert Wagner.
It's all very rote and drab and predictable, and Donner does very little to help matters. The "period detail" is downright laughable, the numerous scenes of non-stop exposition are delivered with all the creativity a motionless tripod can provide, and there's an absent-minded laziness to the whole darn thing.
Were it not for the novelty of seeing Teri Garr crooning torch songs in a 1940s Berlin tavern, there'd be just about nothing to recommend about To Catch a King. (And that hilarious scene happens in the first fifteen minutes, which means you're now left with over 100 more to suffer through.)
Video: The fullscreen I can swallow, obviously, but holy macaroni is this some unpleasant picture quality. ("Quality" being a relative term, and all that.) There's flecks, there's specks, there's dirt, grime, and grain all over this goofy little yak-fest. If HBO decided (for some insane reason) to re-play this flick tomorrow night, I bet I'd look better than what's found on this DVD. Ick.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, and it's just serviceable enough. Light and muffly, but audible.
Extras: There's a 97-minute retrospective featurette that ... nah, just kidding. No extras at all, unless "scene selection" menus tickle you to no end.
It's getting pretty funny to see which old TV-movies get pulled out of the vaults now that the DVD revolution is in full swing. I'm sure the next time Teri Garr heads into a Blockbuster and sees To Catch a King staring back at her, she'll offer an incredulous little chuckle. To get a few more giggles, she'd have to bring the movie home and actually watch it.