Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 248: Topaz (1969) - Rank 3/5


This film reminded me of a comment I once heard my friend Lee make, in reference to his first viewing of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" during its original, theatrical release. To quote: "It's bad when you're watching an Indiana Jones movie and you find yourself looking at your watch." The same could be said of me while viewing one of Hitchcock's later projects. While there are clever sequences and artful shots, the film is very dry and essentially devoid of that trademark Hitchcockian suspense.

The focus is the Cold War, much as it was in "Torn Curtain." This time, the film begins with a defector who tells an American CIA agent (John Forsythe) that there are confirmed relations between Russia and Cuba, and that there's a spy within the French intelligence. The CIA utilizes French agent Andre Devereaux (Frederick Stafford) to do their dirty work, from investigating the link between Russia and Cuba to sniffing out the mole in his own organization. Philippe Noiret and John Vernon have entertaining, albeit brief roles as a glutton in the French agency and a feisty Cuban politico, respectively.

I suppose it's a bad sign when even Hitchcock doesn't know how to end his film. The endings were shot for "Topaz," none of which feel gratifying. Some critics argue that Stafford was a poor choice for a leading man because he scarcely had the presence of other Hitchcock regulars, such as Stewart or Grant. I suppose that's true to an extent, though I felt that Stafford did the best he could with a weak and convoluted script. As I mentioned in reviewing "The Wrong Man," while I appreciate Hitchcock's desire to branch out as a director (as he strives to do here), I still say: "If the formula isn't broken, then why try to fix it?"

Watch the Trailer

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