James Caan as Frank, professional jewel thief
Chicago, Spring 1980
Release Date: March 27, 1981
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Supervisor: Jodie Lynn Tillen
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Considered by many to be one of the director’s best movies, Michal Mann’s debut Thief was released in theaters 40 years ago today. Thief established many of what would become Mann trademarks, from its “principled” yet ruthless professional character who expertly handles a .45 to the setting city elevated to a secondary character itself, particularly its less glamorous underbelly as photographed at night. (Originally titled Violent Streets, even the one-word title would become a Mann signature as evidenced by his future features Ali, Blackhat, Collateral, Heat, and Manhunter.)
Mann adapted the 1975 novel The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by real-life thief John Seybold (writing as “Frank Hohimer”) for his screen debut, retaining the first name of Seybold’s nom de plume for the taciturn thief that would be memorably played by James Caan, who celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday.