When I began this blog all that time ago, I made it clear that this was not for any sort of academic study or to be a detailed critique of any high standard; it was merely a jaunt, a jolly little saunter through the back catalogue of Alfred Hitchcock's work.
I would begin with a quick introduction to my current mood with a few trivial bits of information thrown in about my attire or my nibbles.
Then I would list the main cast members, the synopsis of the film (I had said something about not giving away any plot details or "spoilers" but I did away with that nonsense!) and then mention a few of the lines within the film which entertained me the most.
Once that was done, I'd thrown in a few comments and anecdotes about the film without dwelling too often on the aesthetics of the occasional male star. How gay.
Finally, my verdict. And that is all it was; MY verdict. I have no pretentious delusions of grandeur about my ability to critique film and all its intricate detail, but I can certainly form an opinion.
Sometimes my ratings would differ greatly from other professional movie reviewers, but, as I always say, if everyone thought the same thing, it'd be a dull world in which everyone loved Titanic! *shudder* That might induce nightmares when my head hits the pillow.
But what is the purpose of a blog like this? It's a fair question. Not much point, to be frank. It entertained me and it kept me off the streets (Oh, how I love to loiter) and it was a hobby of sorts for nearly sixteen months. However, I did want to try and figure out my all-time favourite Hitchcock film, so let's have a look at the results...
The Bottom Four
Aventure Malgache 1/10
Juno and the Paycock 3/10
The Skin Game 3/10
Frankly, they are not utter travesties. There's no Plan 9 From Outer Space or an Anaconda among them. If it's a Hitchcock film, even a 1/10 is more entertaining than anything starring Paris Hilton, for example.
These four just 'punch below their weight', as the saying goes.
It is too hard to pick a top ten, so here are the films which got a 9 or a 10.
The 39 Steps 9/10
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) 9/10
North by Northwest 9/10
The Lady Vanishes 10/10
Strangers on a Train 10/10
Rear Window 10/10
The Birds 10/10
Some of those 'nines' could creep higher depending on my mood. I still think Blackmail is one utterly brilliant film, but I shall leave it as my original score so as not to complicate things.
Look at the eight films I gave ten out of ten to! All superb (I know people will disagree and I know some deride The Lady Vanishes for a number of reasons, but I love it!)
The overall winner?
This is the hardest thing to choose.
I have always debated over which of two Hitchcock films is my favourite.
It has always been a toss-up between The Birds and Strangers on a Train - it usually depends on what mood I am in.
But how to choose??
I love both of the original authors - Daphne Du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith - so I cannot use them as a decider. Damn it.
I have often said that if I could ever own just one piece of movie memorabilia, it would be the cigarette lighter 'From A to G' from Strangers on a Train, so that means a lot to me...
When I visited Bodega Bay in 2008, I was in my element, I was so blissfully happy...
The winner is...
It has to be, really. It is so iconic, so technically brilliant for its day and so deeply disturbing. It is celluloid proof of Hitchcock's mastery of the art.
(But I will keep Strangers in reserve, just in case...)
So, What Next?
Well, I have debated doing a blog as I sit through every episode of The X Files (yes, even the awful episode 'Fight Club'!) or, even more daunting, Doctor Who with all the audio soundtracks to the lost episodes - but I shan't do that until I have a laptop or something. It's rather annoying having to watch and then blog later at my PC situated in the kitchen. It'd be more fun to do it simultaneously.
So, for now, I look forward to one day watching Hitch's films randomly and normally - not armed with pen and notepad - to sit down, with the good old Yorkshire Gold tea in one hand and a McVitie's Dark Chocolate Digestive in the other (ready to dunk), with Fizzgig by my side and then be entertained by the genius of Alfred Hitchcock.
In my mind he is, without doubt, the greatest movie director of all-time. He was an entrepreneur, an auteur and a revolutionary. His films will be watched, loved and studied for centuries to come.
I raise my glass.
"To Sir Alfred Hitchcock; the man who scared the bejesus out of me and made me love the world of cinema."
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Title: Family Plot
Studio: A Universal Picture
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman
Source Material: The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning
Running Time: 115 minutes
Saturday 13th August, 10:15am
It's Alfred Hitchcock's 112th birthday today! The perfect time to watch his final film. So, this is it... the blog that started in May 2010 is finally coming to an end. I will do a sort of conclusion after this, but I might as well say now that it has been at some times enjoyable and at other times a chore. It's only the write ups which tend to be the hard part - the synopses are almost a waste of time but there's this part of me which feels the need to be reasonably complete. If I was doing this as a great academic study, I would have put even more time into them. However, it is not - it's just for fun.
I was a little hungover this morning thanks to a tad too much wine partaken with my friend Michael last night, but I had to get up early and make a lemon drizzle cake (again - that's the fourth one in the past few weeks!) this time for my mate Rohan's birthday (he shares it with Hitch - that's so cool!)
Once that was out on the cooling wires, I was able to take my mug of Yorkshire Gold tea and then plop myself down on the settee, armed with a pen and notepad, for one last venture.
It's all rather bitter-sweet, really.
Frances - Karen Black
George Lumley - Bruce Dern
Blanche Tyler - Barbara Harris
Arthur Adamson - William Devane
Joseph Maloney - Ed Lauter
Julia Rainbird - Cathleen Nesbitt
Mrs. Maloney - Katherine Helmond
Grandison - Warren J Kemmerling
Mrs Clay - Edith Atwater
Bishop - William Prince
Constantin - Nicholas Colasanto
Andy Bush - John Lehne
Wheeler - Charles Tyner
Parson - Alexander Lockwood
Sanger - Martin West
Blanche Tyler is a spiritualist, or at least, that's what she tells her clients.
She is currently working with the 78 year old Miss Julia Rainbird. Blanche channels her spirit guide 'Henry' in order to contact Julia's late sister Harriet. Apparently, Harriet wants Julia to put things right - 40 years ago, Harriet had given birth to an illegitimate baby and Julia has insisted it be given up for adoption. Julia's guilt forces her to admit she needs to find the heir to the Rainbird fortune and says she will pay $10,000 if Blanche can help find the son.
Blanche agrees and leaves Miss Rainbird's home. Blanche's boyfriend, George Lumley, picks her up and they discuss the case. It appears Blanche is not as psychic as she makes out and uses tips that George discovers through a bit of snooping.
As they drive through the night, they almost hit a tall blonde woman in a black hat and overcoat, but brake just in time.
This woman, named Frances, then goes to the police where she picks up a large diamond. She does not speak to anyone, merely holds all at bay with her gun and passes over notes.
Mr Constantin will be unconscious but in perfect condition when picked up. Just let him sleep off the drug.
Having received the 'payment', she leaves via the helicopter the police have provided. She directs the pilot to a golf course where she alights and heads off into the words to meet her cohort - a crooked jeweller named Arthur Adamson. They dash off with the diamond, leaving the unconscious body of Mr Constantin to be discovered by the pilot.
In their getaway vehicle, the blonde woman removes her hat, wig and six inch heels to show her true colours.
They pull into their garage and head to the basement where they clean up the hidden room behind the false wall in the basement where they had kept their kidnap victim.
He hides their prize within the crystals on the chandelier in the hallway.
Mr Constantin is back where he belongs and he is furious. He wants to know why the cops have not caught the kidnappers. They ask him questions about his ordeal in order to get a clue as to the whereabouts of the place he was held captive - or even to find some description of the people behind the crime.
They have little to go on.
George borrows Blanche's car as he thinks he has found the daughter of Rainbird's chauffeur, the one who got Harriet pregnant in the first place.
He finds Mrs Hannagan working at a department store and he poses as a lawyer named Frank McBride. She tells him that her late father's best friends were called the Shoebridges, Harry & Sadie. Apparently, they moved away after adopting a boy child but sadly died in a fire. They are buried in Barlow Creek Cemetery.
He then visits the graveyard where he discovers the tombstones of Harry & Sadie but also the stone for an Edward Shoebridge who died the same year, 1950. The caretaker of the cemetery tells him that there is no body in Edward's grave and George notes that it's also a much newer stone. George then goes to see a Mr Wheeler, the man who made the headstone. He said it was paid for in cash by a man with a tow truck. At the registrar for births and deaths, George discovers that an application for a death certificate was made, but it was denied as no body was produced. The man who made this enquiry was a Joseph P Maloney - he gets the man's address.
Joe Maloney runs a petrol station and runs it alongside his wife. George goes asking some questions about the tombstone and the supposedly 'late' Eddie Shoebridge. rattled, Joe takes George's number plate down (885 DJU) as he drives off - although it is Blanche's car...
Maloney pays a visit to Arthur Adamson at the jewellery store and calls him 'Eddie'. Eddie is still alive - he just changed his name. He had planned the murder of his parents, but he had got Maloney to start the fire.
A couple of policemen turn up asking routine questions in case he has seen any strange movements of large diamonds in the circuit recently. He says he hasn't, but recommends they try the antique stores instead.
having established Blanche's address from the car's number plate, Frances and Arthur stake out the house and learn that she is a spiritualist. They witness George and Blanche have an argument outside and overhear something about a large sum money - they assume they mean the reward that's on their heads. They realise that something has to be done about these two, but Frances is not comfortable with the idea of murder.
during another séance session with Julia Rainbird, Blanche learns about the man who baptised the boy before his adoption, so George sets off to find the parson who has since become a Bishop and is situated at St Anselm Cathedral. He arrives at the moment when Frances and Arthur, in disguise, manage to drug the Bishop and drag him off in full sight of a congregation. The kidnappers leave a ransom note for $1,000,000 in a prayer book.
Maloney calls up Blanche and tells her is she wants information about Eddie Shoebridge, she must come with George to Abe and Mabel's café up in the hills. They arrive but Maloney is an apparent no-show - however, he did turn up, but only to sabotage their car.
As they retreat down the winding road again, they discover the accelerator has been tampered with and the brakes cut. They manage to swerve the oncoming traffic, narrowly missing the cliff edges and eventually come to a stop after ploughing through a fence and crashing into an embankment. Stumbling carefully back onto the road on foot, they see Maloney drive by - they refuse his offer of a lift as they know he was to blame for the accident. Maloney drives off only to return and tries to run them down. he fails and plummets over the cliff to his doom.
When Adamson learns of Moaloney's death, he says that he and Frances will have to finish them off themselves. She is not happy about this.
George attends Joe's funeral and talks to Mrs Maloney who recognises him from the service station. She is distraught but George tells her that she could be arrested for being an accessory to an attempted murder. In hysterics, she tells him that Eddie Shoebridge changed his name to Arthur Adamson.
Whilst George has to work for the taxi firm, Blanche does some investigating of her own trying to find the right Arthur Adamson. Eventually she locates the jewellers and speaks to Miss Clay, Arthur's assistant. She writes a note for him...
Dear Mr Adamson,
If the name Shoebridge means something to you, please phone 45701..
I have extremely good news for you.
Then, Blanche decides not to leave the note but asks for his address instead so she can see him personally.
She drives by George's work and tells his colleague, Pete, to pass on her news - she has found him and she mentions the address.
When Blanche arrives at the Adamson's home, no one answers the door - because they are about to take the drugged bishop to the drop off point and pick up the latest diamond. She leaves the note on the door and then heads back to her car which, unfortunately, is blocking the garage entrance. She sees Adamson and Frances and is overjoyed at finding them at last. Arthur is aggressive at first but is then surprised to discover that she has not been investigating their crimes, merely seeking him out to tell him about his inheritance! Sadly, the Bishop's unconscious body is seen by Blanche and they have to silence her. Arthur closes the garage door, trapping her and then injects her with the drug to knock her out. They put her in the sealed room and head off for the Bishop's ransom.
Whilst they are gone, George has got off his shift and has followed Blanche via the message she left with Pete. He finds the note on the door, Blanche's car empty with the keys in the ignition and no sign of Blanche. He sneaks around the back of the house and breaks in through a small window leading into the basement. He searches the place and finds Blanche's handbag. As he looks upstairs, he hears the crooks return. He hides and waits and overhears them talk about their plans for killing Blanche - making it look like suicide.
George watches as Arthur checks on Blanche who is apparently still unconscious. Arthur goes to prepare a hose for the 'suicide' and George goes into the secret room where he discovers Blanche awake. When Frances and Arthur come to get Blanche, she fights them off and runs out of the room and she and George seal it closed with the crooks locked inside.
Relieved that it is all over, they know they will get a mighty reward - but an even bigger one if they can return the diamonds.
Something possesses Blanche and she enters a trance. She walks up the stairs out of the basement and into the hall where she finds the diamond hidden in the chandelier. George is now convinced she is actually not a fake psychic., but has actual powers. He goes to ring the police to tell them the good news and also to phone Miss Rainbird to tell her the bad.
George: "Without my research, you're about as psychic as a dry salami."
Blanche: "Nasty. Nasty, nasty."
George: "I'm sick and tired that you have me by the crystal balls."
Blanche: "Leave your crystal balls out of this, George!"
The cops question Constantin about the female partner in crime:
Cop: "How old is she?"
Constantin: "Why? Because if a man my age is gonna get kidnapped by a woman, he wants her to be 25, that's why!!"
The kidnapped Bishop is not ready to be returned to his home due to the pleasant catering provided...
Bishop: "But I haven't finished the chicken!"
Ah, finishing on a comedy. Some people say Hitchcock didn't do many comedies, and it's true in the broader sense of the term. The closest thing he came to screw-ball comedy was Mr & Mrs Smith and to some extent, The Lady Vanishes but he did do a lot of black comedy like The Trouble With Harry, Strangers on a Train and (in Hitch's own words) Psycho.
This film is a much more obvious and recognisable comedy thriller, mainly due to the wonderful central performance by Barbara Harris (whom I had always loved as a child in Disney's Freaky Friday alongside Jodie Foster.
She is the main element of comedy in the film, but there are some deliciously dark toned moments throughout too. Frances proving her gun is loaded in the helicopter by shooting the window, Arthur's reaction to Maloney's death (laughter) and of course the white-knuckle drive down the road - it's sweat-inducing tension, but played hilariously as Bruce Dern tries to control the car and fend off Barbara Harris' manic Blanche.
However, my favourite 'comedy' scene is when Blanche is trying all the people named "A. Adamson" in the phone book. They are either too old, too female, too black or, in one case, too... 'two' - they are twins. Brilliantly edited and played for laughs. Top stuff.
My favourite Hitchcockian touch is the overhead camera above the graveyard as George and Mrs Maloney wander the various paths before meeting up. Hitch is very fond of his overhead shots and he knows how effective they are. It's almost like watching live-action Pac-Man. (No doubt there's an idea for Hollywood... *sigh*)
The darkest scene of all is the attack on Blanche in the garage - suddenly, it's not so funny any more as Arthur overpowers her and injects her with the drug as Frances stands uselessly by - it is the moment when you thoroughly despise Adamson and you certainly don't want him to get away with his crimes. No one manhandles a Disney actress and gets away with it.
Lastly, it's nice for Bruce Dern to have a bigger role in a Hitchcock film. His previous film for Hitch was Marnie in which he played the sailor - nasty!
Fun. It's not Hitch's finest, but as an unexpected 'farewell', it's a thoroughly entertaining romp. 7/10
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Studio: A Universal Picture
Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer
Source Material: A novel entitled Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur Le Bern
Running Time: 111 minutes
Saturday 6th August, 2:30pm
The penultimate film! Isn't this exciting!?
This morning, I finally got around to writing up Topaz. It was even harder because it had been a week since I had watched it and it's not particularly memorable, so I did cut some corners a bit. Frankly, who cares? It's not like students worldwide are using this blog as a study guide or anything.
While I am thinking about it, I must mention that I have checked the statistics to see who reads this blog, where they are from and how they search for it. It seems a lot of visitors are from the U.S.A. and one of the most read pages is for Juno and the Paycock. Are people just Googling rude words and stumbling across my page? I hope not...
Anyway, back to today.
I had been out this morning shopping with a friend; I bought some birthday presents for another friend and ordered some decent footwear in preparation for my trip to the U.K. at the end of the year (I needed something smart yet durable) and had a lovely time. However, I was actually eager to get home to watch this movie in the afternoon as it is a favourite of mine. So very Seventies, but so wonderfully brilliant.
It was a little bitter-sweet to watch after the recent passing of the wonderful Anna Massey. She was a superb actress.
I had a large mug of Yorkshire Gold tea and a small bar of Dairy Milk chocolate. Lovely... lovely...
Richard "Dickie" Blaney - Jon Finch
Robert "Bob" Rusk - Barry Foster
Brenda Blaney - Barbara Leigh-Hunt
Babs Milligan - Anna Massey
Chief Inspector Tim Oxford - Alec McCowen
Hetty Porter - Billie Whitelaw
Johnny Porter - Clive Swift
Felix Forsythe - Bernard Cribbins
Sergeant Spearman - Michael Bates
An M.P. named Sir George is speaking his rhetoric to a fascinated crowd alongside the Thames. He is talking about the abolition of industrial waste into London's rivers and how he'll bring an end to pollution. His speech is interrupted by the sight of a naked female corpse floating down the river with only a tie around her neck.
It's another necktie murder...
Richard "Dickie" Blaney works at The Globe pub in Covent Garden with his girlfriend Babs. He is an ex RAF squadron leader who has found it difficult to find decent work. His boss, Felix Forsythe catches him supping the brandy once too often and is about to fire him. Blaney quits instead and says he'll pick up his belongings later.
Dickie goes to see his mate Bob Rusk at the Covent Garden market who offers him so money, but Dickie refuses. Instead, Bob gives him a tip on the afternoon's horse-race. He can't afford to bet on it and, sadly, it wins - twenty to one. This exacerbates Dickie's already tense mood.
He then goes to see his ex wife at her office. She runs a dating agency, helping lonely people find companionship. Her secretary, Monica Baring, is not particularly welcoming to Dickie as she can sense his aggression.
Brenda agrees to see Dickie but due to his rather terse temper, she suggests Monica takes off early. Brenda offers to take Dickie to her club for dinner - on her!
He agrees but his frustrations flare up once again and he makes rather a scene at dinner. He seems to think the world has something against him.
That night, he has to sleep at the Salvation Army, but he discovers that his ex-wife has sneakily left £50 in his pockets.
The next day, at lunch, a "Mr Robinson" turns up at the bureau whilst Monica is on lunch. It is really Bob Rusk. He is complaining that her bureau won't find him a girl for his perverted ways. She tries to call the police when he gets aggressive.
He tackles her and rapes her, uttering the word 'lovely' over and over again as she recite s prayer to herself. Then he removes his monogrammed tie-pin from his tie, places it into his lapel and uses his tie to strangle the life out of her.
He leaves casually. Seconds later, Dickie arrives to thank Brenda for the cash. The office door is locked on the latch, so he turns and leaves. Monica returns from lunch and sees Dickie leave. She goes upstairs to the office and discovers the lifeless body of her employer.
Dickie calls Babs at the Globe pub and tells her to meet him at Leicester Square at 4pm. Meanwhile, Monica is giving the police a very detailed description of Mr Blaney.
The police find no money in her purse, but some face powder loose - they think it is possible that any stolen money would have traces of the powder on it.
Babs picks up Dickie and they go to the Coburg Hotel. She is surprised he can afford it, but accepts he has somehow got this money and they book into 'The Cupid Room', paying in advance for the night - Dickie asks the porter to get his suit cleaned as it smells from the night he spent at the Salvation Army.
The nest morning, the papers are full of articles about the latest murder. The porter recognises the description of the suit he cleaned and calls the police. However, Babs and Dickie have also seen the newspapers that morning and have fled.
In a nearby park, Dickie professes his innocence to Babs and she believes him. An old RAF buddy named Johnny Porter finds them in the park and tells them both to come up to his apartment. His wife, Hetty, is up in arms as she believes Dickie is guilty and has fears about him staying with them. Hetty and Johnny are planning on opening a pub in Paris called The Bulldog and suggests they both come and work for him. They plan to travel the following day.
Meanwhile, at New Scotland Yard, they have discovered that the ten pound note that Dickie paid the hotel with had traces of the face powder from Brenda's purse.
Felix Forsythe calls them and says that Babs has not turned up for work and has left her belongings behind - he fears for her life.
Back at The Globe, Bob Rusk is chatting to the potato merchant named Jim. Babs turns up and quits her job, telling Felix where he can stuff it. She storms out and Bob follows her. He offers her a place to stay and they go back to his apartment. As they enter, he says to her; "You're my kind of woman"...
Later that night, he bundles her corpse in a potato sack and tosses it onto one of Jim's lorries destined for a long trip that night. He returns to his flat to relax but suddenly panics when he realises his tie-pin is missing - it must still be on her person. He dashes back down to the truck and climbs aboard, searching for the right sack. The truck is boarded by its driver and starts on its journey with Bob on board. He rips open the right sack and struggles to pull the naked corpse out of the potatoes. He finds the pin stuck in her right fist. Rigor mortis has set in and he has to break her fingers to get it free.
The truck pulls over at a café where Bob gets out and hides in the toilets until the truck leaves again. He returns to the café to freshen up.
The truck is on its journey again, but the police notice the foot of the corpse sticking out the back. They chase the truck and when he brakes suddenly, the body falls into the road.
The next morning, Hetty is desperate for Dickie to leave their apartment now that babs is dead. Dickie is horrified and Johnny realises that his plans to open a new pub will go out of the window if the police know he's harboured a criminal, despite the fact that they could provide an alibi for him. Dickie leaves in frustration and heads to whom he believes is his only friend - Bob Rusk.
Bob offers to help and suggests they go back to his apartment separately. He takes Dickie's bag for him. Once both at the flat, Bob leaves Dickie alone and calls the police who turn up, find Dickie's bag which now have Babs' belongings in and they arrest him.
In court, Dickie is found guilty and is thrown in prison for a minimum of 25 years. As Dickie is sent down he screams that it was Rusk who did it.
Once the commotion is all over, the Chief Inspector is beginning to put the pieces into place.
He gets a photo of Rusk and shows it to Monica Barling who recognises him as "Mr Robinson" and his distasteful needs, wanting women who were sexual masochists.
Oxford also hears from Sergeant Spearman who investigated the café where a waitress also identifies Rusk as a dishevelled man who was there on the night of the murder who used a clothes brush to dust off his jacket. The brush still had traces of potato dust. It seems they sent the wrong man to jail after all.
Meanwhile, Dickie, mad on revenge, throws himself down the stairs in jail and ends up in hospital. He escapes from there and heads to Bob's flat. Armed with a tyre iron, he creeps into the building and beats the body under the bed covers, only to discover another dead woman. Chief Inspector Oxford catches him in the act, but moments later, they both hear Rusk returning to his rooms, lugging a large trunk up the stairs.
Bob enters. He sees Dickie and then he sees the Inspector.
The Inspector simply says; "Mr rusk. You're not wearing your tie!"
So many. Here are a few:
Sir George: (on seeing the naked woman with a tie around her neck) "I say, it's not my club tie, is it?"
Two gentlemen are talking about the murders in a pub, bringing Maisie the barmaid into their conversation:
Man #1: "We were just talking about the murderer, Maisie. You'd better watch out!"
Maisie: "He rapes 'em first, doesn't he?"
Man #1: "Yes, I believe he does."
Man #2: "Well I suppose it's nice to know every cloud has a silver lining."
Man #2: (on murders in London) "They're so good for the tourist trade!"
Chief Inspector Oxford: (to Felix regarding Babs not returning for her belongings) "These days, ladies abandon their honour far more readily than their clothes."
Chief Inspector Oxford: "Sergeant Spearman, you are positively glutinous with self-approbation!"
The screenplay was written by Anthony Shaffer, the playwright behind Sleuth. He's brilliant. His dialogue is deliciously dark and witty.
The rape scene is one of the most horrific scenes in any Hitchcock film ever. It is so intense and it just highlights the vile and putrid act, summing up the aggression of the sick man and the vulnerability of the innocent woman. It's not pleasant to watch, but by god, it's effective. Terrifying.
The shot where Babs is murdered and the camera backs slowly down the stairs away from Bob's flat is lauded as an iconic piece of Hitchcockian direction, and with good reason too. We don't need to see the horror of the rape, but the slow retraction from the crime highlighting our helplessness to prevent the hideous result is gripping to the core. Superb stuff.
As you know, I have watched all of Hitch's films now and there is only one scene in his entire catalogue that I find it extremely difficult to watch and that is the breaking of Babs' fingers in the potato truck. I have to turn away every time. It is gruesome, macabre and I am pathetically squeamish about it. Isn't that odd!?
The inspector and his wife have a couple of amusing scenes where she dishes up a load of "gourmet" meals whilst asking him about the crimes and giving her own thoughts about who may be guilty. These scenes are played for comedy and they are a jovial treat in a darker landscape. Her intuition could rival Miss Marple's... but probably not her cuisine.
Great cast, terrific direction, superb scenes. Hitch's last great film. 10/10
Studio: A Universal Picture
Screenplay: Samuel A Taylor
Source Material: A novel by Leon Uris
Running Time: 136 minutes
Friday 29th July, 1:00pm
So, I finally got to sit through all of Topaz! I have attempted a number of times before but been overwhelmed by boredom each time. Thankfully, due to the nature of this blog, I was given a reason to persist – and, to be honest, I am glad I did. Sure, it’s not the best Hitchcock ever, but it was certainly better than I had lead myself to believe.
I had a day off work last Friday, so I settled down in the afternoon so I could get it out of the way and leave the rest of my weekend free – however, upon finishing the film, I went to turn on my computer only to find… it wouldn’t! It was dead!! ARGH!!
Luckily, I have a genius friend by the name of Adam who was able to resurrect it on Sunday. I did notice however that over those 48 hours without a computer, I was able to get an awful lot done – housework, sleeping, reading etc. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.
Annoyingly, I simply did not have the time (nor the impetus) to do the blog during the week, so it has been severely delayed!
Anyway, the point is, I had to wait to update the blog, so here it is now. Forgive the lack of depth this time - it's a boring plot and as I write this, I'm very tired...
Andre Devereaux – Frederick Stafford
Nicoel Devereaux – Dany Robin
Rico Parra – John Vernon
Juanita de Cordoba – Karin Dor
Jacques Granville – Michel Piccoli
Rene Jarre – Philippe Noiret
Michele Picard – Claude Jade
Francois Picard – Michel Subor
Philippe Dubois – Roscoe Lee Browne
Boris Kusenov – Per-Axel Arosenius
Michael Nordstrom – John Forsythe
Somewhere in this crowd is a high Russian official who disagrees with his government’s display of force and what it threatens.
Very soon his conscience will force him to attempt an escape while apparently on a vacation with his family.
Copenhagen, Denmark, 1962
Boris Kuzenov and his wife and daughter are taking a holiday in Copenhagen, but they have plans in place to escape and flee to America. They leave their holiday home and visit a ceramics factory whilst being followed by some foreign agents.
Boris’ daughter, Tamara, meets with a contact and discovers they have to be at the Den Permanente store that afternoon.
Eventually losing the men who are following them, they take a taxi to the airfield where the American who has been helping them, Michael Nordstrom, is chastised by Boris for creating such a clumsy scheme. However, they have escaped and arrive in Washington. They are given a home to live in and are given new identities but for the mean time, they must lie low.
At the French Embassy in Washington D.C., Andre Deveraux learns from a man named D’Arcy that there is a Russian defector in the city and would like Andre to find out more.
Kuzenov is being interrogated by Americans regarding what he knows of the KGB and the codename ‘Topaz’.
He and his family are offered new lives and identities.
During the interview, it comes out that a man named Rico Parra has a secret trade pact between Cuba and Russia. He has a right hand man named Luis Uribe who may be able to be of assistance. They need to get to this man.
At Devereaux's home, Nordstrom visits for dinner to discuss the nature of Devereaux's assignment - he has to go to New York to find Luis Uribe and get whatever information he can about Rico's dealings with Russia.
Devereaux and his wife travel to New York and visit their daughter Michele and her husband, Francois Picard. Nordstrom is already there awaiting them, to make sure Devereaux knows what it is he has to do.
Andre goes to see his contact, a man named Phillipe who works at a florist. His role is to act as a reporter from a magazine called 'Ebony' and to get the files away from Parra via Uribe.
Phillie succeeds in persuading Uribe and only just manage to get some photographs of some vital papers before being discovered. Phillipe flees through a crowd and bumps into Andre - handing him the camera discreetly - and runs to safety.
Andre's next job is to head to Cuba to find out what the Russians are doing over there. His wife Nicole is not happy as she knows he has a girlfriend there named Juanita de Cordoba. He tells Nicole that she is simply and underground agent, but he is astonished she knows the truth.
When in Cuba, Andre meets up with his lover and they have plans to investigate Parra's plans. There is a port and there are a significant number of guards surrounding it. They send the Mendozas, a local couple, to investigate - disguised as a gentle couple on a romantic picnic, they take with them a camera, a recording device and a Geiger counter hidden within their basket of food. They get some images and some recordings, but they sea gulls give them away. They are chased after and apprehended but not before they have hidden the equipment in the hollow metal railings of a bridge, to be picked up later. These are later returned to Juanita hidden inside a plucked turkey.
Juanita's house-boy, Tomas, sets to work and later informs Andre that the evidence is hidden within the spools of ribbon in the typewriter and within the blades of his razors. Juanita fears this may be the last time she sees Andre and gives him a small book for him to read on the plane - she tells him not to open it until later.
Sadly, Parra has tortured the Mendozas and they have revealed that it is Juanita who has employed their services. He heads to the her home and the place is searched, but Andre has already left. Rico shoots Juanita.
Andre makes it away on the plane, despite the razors and ribbons being confiscated (and apparently empty too) - Andre is perplexed and saddened, but discovers some evidence sealed within the inside cover of the book Juanita gave him.
When Andre returns home, there is a pile of mail awaiting him - Nicole has returned to Paris with her daughter.
Rene D'Arcy turns up and tells Andre he too has to go to Paris.
Topaz, it is revealed is the code name for a bunch of French officials who work secretly for the Soviet union - one of these men is apparently named Henri Jarre.
Andre now has to expose 'Topaz' for what they are.
In Paris he meets with a number of high officials including Henri. Henri states that all this nonsense with Boris must be untrue because, according to him, Boris has been dead for a year.
Later, Francois Picard visits Henri and tries to get more information out of him. He admits Andre sent him and eventually persuades Jarre to meet with Devereaux again. Two men come into Henri's room and attack Francois, knocking him unconscious and they throw Henri from the window, killing him.
Francois returns to their apartments, grazed by a bullet, but essentially unhurt. With evidence they have collected, they now know the man they are looking for is Jacques Granville. They inform the authorities and Granville is removed from the peace conferences and sent back home. 'Topaz' have been exposed and it's all over...
(There are another two alternate endings. In one,Granville is assassinated during a duel and in the other, he simply returns to his home and shoots himself. The DVD ending I have has him simply extradited from the country.)
This has to be the worst synopsis I have written. Part of me wants to apologise but another part feels rather apathetic about it. After all, it's not the most thrilling plot ever.
Andre: ”Diplomat’s wives should not talk.”
Nicole: ”All wives talk!”
Juanita: ”Even tortured people lie.”
I find this to be the least ‘Hitchcock’ of all the Hitchcock movies, if you see what I mean. It’s a standard espionage affair with a real political backdrop and all in all, it’s a tad dull. However, there are some things which lift it from being appallingly tiresome.
The death of Juanita is as beautifully shot as it is predictable. The overhead view of her body falling away from her assassin is a stunning visual display albeit so simple. It is something which remains in one’s mind for long after the film is over.
The horrific off-screen torture of the Mendozas is implied merely by the tableaux of the near-dead couple – he lying prostrate in her weak arms – and with this gripping image, one can understand why they finally relent and give up Juanita’s name to Parra. One cannot help feel for this ill-fated couple.
The young Tomas’ fate is also off-screen, but we can take it for granted that his end would be a grim one.
The globe-trotting locations of the story are well realised. From Copenhagen to North America to Cuba and to France… it’s quite a travelogue. Hitch makes fine use of his locations and it certainly feels like his most wide-ranging film to date. I am not overly familiar with national anthems of the world, but I could not help but titter to myself when hearing what must be the Cuban national anthem (or whatever it is they are singing) as it bore a strange uncanny resemblance to Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside in places. No disrespect intended, of course!
And, true to my nature, I have to say that when Tomas (played by John Roper) came on screen I said out loud; "Hello Tomas!" (Some sources credit him as ‘Thomas’ but I prefer the Spanish spelling for a Cuban boy.)
Oh, and Philippe Noiret looks like Chris O'Dowd - Roy from The IT Crowd.
Sure, it’s a tad overlong, a bit boring in places and doesn’t always feel like a Hitchcock film, but it wasn’t all bad. 3/10