A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
Professor Michael Armstrong is heading to Stockholm to attend a physics conference accompanied by his assistant-fiancée Sarah Sherman. Once arrived however, Michael informs her that he may be staying for awhile and she should return home. She follows him and realizes he's actually heading to East Germany, behind the Iron Curtain. She follows him there and is shocked when he announces that he's defecting to the East after the US government canceled his research project. In fact, Michael is there to obtain information from a renowned East German scientist. Once the information is obtained, he and Sarah now have to make their way back to the West. Written by
When Professor Lindt is erasing the chalkboard of his calculations, two shots show him erasing only the right side. But in a subsequent shot, the entire chalkboard is erased. See more »
Professor Karl Manfred:
Are they ever going to get the heating fixed?
They are working at it, Professor. Perhaps some of you scientists would like to give us a helping hand!
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Too bad Hitchcock had to create this film in 1966. The spy vs. spy craze was at its height with super-spy James Bond played by ebullient Sean Connery at the top of the movie ladder. Dozens of Cold War espionage thrillers were marketed that year. Even non-spy films touched on espionage from time to time. Adding to the spy mill in 1966 were several espionage television series including the classic spy spoof show "Get Smart," created by the comedic giants Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. So to most movie goers of the day "Torn Curtain" was just another film capitalizing on the spy vs. spy trend. "Torn Curtain," however, is one of Hitchcock's best with two scenes that are among his most intense, the almost endless killing of communist agent Hermann Gromek, played with skill by Wolfgang Kieling, and the bus getaway that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The crying fire in a crowded theater is exciting but predictable--the viewer is just waiting for Professor Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) to jump from his seat and yell.
Lovely Julie Andrews has a juicy role as Dr. Sarah Louise Sherman, the soon to be Mrs. Armstrong if the good professor doesn't run away and leave her. When my wife watched this movie for the first time, she asked in a surprising tone of voice, "Is that really Paul Newman and Julie Andrews together?" This unlikely combination works. It works better than the movies Newman made with his wife, Joanne Woodward. The role of Dr. Sherman is also somewhat unique in that she is unwittingly involved in espionage without her knowledge, following her fiancée to Communist East Germany without knowing that he is on an extremely dangerous assignment which only a nuclear scientist can carry out.
Hitchcock's film making was beginning to taper off in the twilight of his years. But the masterful hand was still orchestrating film techniques highly original and creative. Lesser directors would have used just anyone to play the small but significant part of the prima donna Countess Kuchinska. Instead Hitchcock searched and found just the right person with the right face and attitude for the role. Lila Kedrova was chosen because she could actually sing opera and because her face and mannerisms stand out in a crowd. In her first appearance when she is getting off the plane, she becomes agitated because Professor Armstrong is receiving all the attention from the press. Hitchcock zooms the camera in for a closeup of her face with its distinctive features. It's well over an hour later that Countess Kuchinska reappears. This reappearance is crucial for the development of the film. Because of Hitchcock's methods, the viewer automatically recognizes the Countess, instantly remembering that she had been upset with Professor Armstrong because of all the attention taken away from her and showered on the professor. She definitely has an ax to grind.
Though it has not received much attention compared with many other Hitchcock films, "Torn Curtain" is among his best and should be savored by all. Even though political conditions have flip flopped since 1966 and there is no longer a communist East Germany, this Cold War delicacy is worth a bite. Oh, and watch the somewhat hidden ironic humor at the beginning where there's a room full of top scientists during the Cold War and the heat doesn't work.
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