Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 164: Torn Curtain (1966) - Rank 3.5/5


Rumor has it that Hitchcock was fairly displeased with the finished product of the film, as were its stars, Julie Andrews and Paul Newman. I suppose I can see why upon reflection. It's not that its a terrible film, it's just mediocre. When you consider the director's repertoire though, I could see where it would be a frightfully disappointing result. Director's attitude aside, "Torn Curtain" still has moments of Hitchcock's trademark suspense.

The plot follows Dr. Armstrong (Newman) as he defects to the Communist East Germany, and his dedicated fiance/assistant Sarah (Andrews), who unwittingly tags along until she realizes that there's no turning back to America. Dr. Armstrong has "defected" for the U.S. Government to obtain knowledge from some of Germany's most prominent scientists, but he cannot tell Sarah the truth for fear of exposure. Later, when the shit hits the fan, the two must try to make their way back to West Germany - a task that sounds easier than actuality.

While Newman and Andrews adequately keep their heads above water when on screen alone, together they tend to sink. I never got any sense of chemistry between the two and never felt like it would be plausible for Sarah to follow Armstrong halfway around the world. The script isn't the best Hitchcock's had to work with either, which hurts the director's ability to build proper tension for the spy thriller. As I noted before, there are some great moments of suspense, particularly when Newman kills his tail in a secluded farmhouse. For fear of alerting the cab driver outside the window, he kills the security detail in complete silence. No music. No dialogue. Just uncomfortable grunts as Newman stabs, chokes and drags the man into an oven. Unpleasant, but suspenseful. However, when one of the film's big climaxes is a bus ride that lasts nearly ten minutes...I'm sorry, but even Alfred Hitchcock, who made tennis riveting in "Strangers on a Train" is hard pressed to make it seem anything but tedious.

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