Monday, 17 March 2008

Torn Curtain

Having recovered from the disappointment of Topaz, I’ve watched another Hitchcock film from the 1960s, Torn Curtain. This Cold War movie, the sombre tone of which contrasts sharply with the witty and gimmick-heavy James Bond movies of the era, has the benefit of two highly bankable stars in Paul Newman and Julie Andrews.

The script was written by the estimable Brian Moore (although apparently Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, of all people, were involved in re-writing it.) Bernard Hermann was commissioned to write the score, but Hitchcock sacked him and hired John Addison in his place; Hermann’s work is now available on CD, but I haven’t heard it.

Torn Curtain is certainly better than Topaz, but this only lifts it to the level of the so-so. Newman is a likeable actor (Butch Cassidy is one of my favourite movies) and Julie Andrews is lovely, but there isn’t much chemistry between them. And, for the most part, the film lacks the pace that nowadays we would take for granted in a major thriller. Cutting it by thirty minutes would have worked wonders.

There are good moments, however. The murder of Newman’s ‘minder’ in a lonely farmhouse is an extraordinary scene, underlining just how difficult it really is to kill someone. The escape of Newman and Andrews from a crowded theatre packed with East German police is well done, as is the key scene on board the ship that is supposed to be taking them to freedom. So – worth watching, but not quite worthy of all the talented people involved in its making.

4 comments:

Peter said...

Among very late Hitchcock, I'd call Family Plot a sleeper for its unexpected humor.

I wonder how Torn Curtain looked when first released. I haven't seen it in a few years, but I seem to recall the color being weirdly crisp. Perhaps the print had not aged well, or perhaps Hitch or his cinematographer had the idea that crisp, icy color suited a Cold War story.
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Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Martin Edwards said...

Peter, I'm also a fan of Family Plot. Much better than Torn Curtain.

Peter said...

One could make an agreeable game of naming favorite Hitchcock movies by decade or period. I suspect there would be more disagreement about his 1950s movies than about his post-1906s films, though some might favor Frenzy over Family Plot.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Martin Edwards said...

It's a very long time since I last saw Frenzy, though I did buy it on DVD a while ago for future watching. My hazy recollection is that it was pretty good.