Color, 1968, 102 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by Norman Jewison
Starring Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Paul Burke, Jack Weston, Biff McGuire
Kino Lorber (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), MGM (DVD Worldwide) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

If The Thomas Crown Affairany year firmly cemented The Thomas Crown AffairSteve McQueen's status as Hollywood's king of cool, it was 1968 when moviegoers got hit with a double whammy separated by only months. The second of the pair was Bullitt, his wildly popular cop film that revolutionized cinematic car chases, while the first was The Thomas Crown Affair, a slick, flashy crime caper with a lot of glamour and sex appeal. The recently overhauled movie ratings system slapped an "M" (for Mature Audiences) rating on both at the time, though inexplicably, Bullitt has since been downgraded to a PG while this one still bears one of the most inexplicable R ratings in movie history. Apparently it's still a big no no for kids to see someone's fingers stroking a chess piece. In the ensuing five decades, this film has been imitated and parodied so often that its innovative style may feel more like a retro TV commercial to unfamiliar viewers; however, as a piece of movie history and an example of late '60s commercial filmmaking at its savviest, this one's hard to beat.

An audacious bank robbery is pulled off by four men, none of whom know each other and all recruited by a man whose face they've never seen. Among them is a getaway driver (Weston) who could be the weakest link, but tying him to a possible mastermind will prove to be a tough challenge. Enter Vicki Anderson (Dunaway, hot off her star-making role in Bonnie and Clyde), an elegant, no-nonsense insurance investigator brought in to recover the cash -- with an offer to keep ten per cent of the The Thomas Crown Affair$2.6 million loot for herself if she succeeds. She quickly hones in on Thomas Crown (McQueen), an extremely rich The Thomas Crown Affairbusinessman, all-around playboy, and avid sportsman who's been making frequent trips to Switzerland to deposit money installments with no questions asked. It's no mystery that she turns out to be correct, but what's more surprising is that Crown didn't orchestrate the crime for money; instead it was an elaborate game to test his skills, an approach he brings to everything else in his life. An undeniable attraction quickly develops between the two, forcing them to choose between following their own paths or making sacrifices that could harm each other.

Though it sounds like a traditional suspense film on paper, The Thomas Crown Affair doesn't really aim for thriller territory at all apart from a pair of snappy robbery sequences. Instead it's more concerned with dreamy upper crust atmosphere and the romantic tension between the two leads, which really pays off in the legendary, sexy chess sequence featuring nary a spoken word or flash of skin. It's all given a fine gloss by the great Michel Legrand, who was making a bid as a major Hollywood composer with a barrage of studio films in '68 and '69 and scored a major hit with his Oscar-winning theme song, "The Windmills of Your Mind" (which was seemingly covered by almost every vocalist on the planet for the next five years). However, the real star here is director Norman Jewison, a TV The Thomas Crown Affairveteran who hit the big time with an earlier McQueen film, The Cincinnati Kid, and was enjoying a productive partnership with producer Walter Mirisch including the previous year's much-loved The Thomas Crown AffairBest Picture winner, In the Heat of the Night. This is a much fluffier follow-up film, to put it mildly, but Jewison pulls out all the stops to make it as impressive as possible including some cutting-edge, multiple split screen effects (designed by Pablo Ferro, who also worked on Bullitt), sharp cinematography by Haskell Wexler, and an army of editors including the invaluable Hal Ashby. The combination worked out perfectly, and the film became a big hit with lots of romantic, elegant crime films following in its wake as well as a surprisingly solid 1999 remake by John McTiernan that takes the basic idea in a few different directions.

Despite its pedigree, this film has been given short shrift in the special edition department for a very long time. MGM issued it on home video in a variety of formats including VHS, laserdisc, and a couple of DVD packaging options in 1999 and 2006 as well as a Blu-ray in 2012. All of them looked fine to varying degrees, with the theatrical trailer as the only notable extra on any of them. In 2018, Kino Lorber released the film in its first full-fledged special edition (just in time for its 50th anniversary)

, sporting what's touted as a new 4K restoration. The improvement is obvious immediately with a drastic increase in detail and significant additional information visible on the sides (to varying degrees from scene to scene, sometimes with a bit less on the right), resulting The Thomas Crown Affairin a presentation that's far more fresh and immediate than the earlier, orange-hued one (which looked more akin to watching a good but somewhat degraded print). The color scheme The Thomas Crown Affairis cooler and darker, with greens in particular looking less sickly here and flesh tones not looking as flushed. The DTS-HD MA English audio (with optional English subtitles) sounds very good with Legrand's score as usual getting the biggest boost. Two audio commentaries are included, the first with Jewison going into heavy detail about the the film including its status as screenwriter Alan Trustman's first script (inspired by the view of a bank outside his office), the glory days of working with Mirisch, and the technical demands of mounting the complex split screen sequences. A second track by film historian Lem Dobbs and Twilight Time's Nick Redman takes a more scholarly look at the film as a key representative of late '60s film style during one of Hollywood's most dramatic transition periods and a snapshot of two major stars who would go on to have a major impact on the industry for the subsequence decade. In addition to the very quickly-edited trailer, a new interview featurette with Jewison, "A Master Class in Style" (19m26s), reiterates a lot of the same material from the commentary but touches on some broader bits of his career at the time, while an appropriately flashy new interview with split screen pro and titles creator Pablo Ferro (7m39s) covers his working relationship with the director. Particularly fascinating is a lengthy (8m53s) vintage behind-the-scenes featurette, "Three's a Company," featuring copious on-set comments from both stars (one of whom comes off as very self-absorbed) and the director as well as lots of fly-on-the-wall production footage. Interestingly, the film is referred to here under its shooting title, Thomas Crown & Co. Also included are bonus trailers for Jewison's In the Heat of the Night, F.I.S.T. and The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!

The Thomas Crown Affair Opera Opera Opera Opera

The Thomas Crown Affair Opera Opera Opera Opera

Reviewed on February 3, 2018.