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
Universal Studios' Stage 28, the Lon Chaney 1925 B&W feature film "Phantom of the Opera" interior European three tiered box seat horseshoe theatre and stage proscenium existed as a permanent studio stage standing set. In 2014, this is the oldest permanent standing set in Hollywood in existence. The Universal Studios' stage 28 "Phantom of the Opera" theatre interior set was also used in Alfred Hitchcock's 1966 feature film "The Torn Curtain." In 1965, the Paris Opera theatre interior set had fallen into disrepair, but Universal gave permission for Hitch to use it in the climax of his film. Hitch had his crew (including Joe Musso, a young budding illustrator) restore the theatre set back to the way the stage set was originally built for the 1925 Lon Chaney film. The original blueprints for the 1925 Chaney film no longer existed in 1964, but Joe Musso had a great 8"x10" photo collection from the Chaney film that showed the Paris Opera theater interior in great detail. Based on these archived B&W photos, the production designer, Hein Heckroth, art director, Frank Arrigo, and assistant art director, Joe Alves, had the set designers recreate new blueprints for the construction crew to restore the stage theatre set properly. Hitchcock had the original seats reupholstered and put back into the audience floor space, filling the theater floor and the European style horseshoe three tiered box gallery with 500 extras, along with Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. The set designers who worked on the film included John Corso, Burwell Hamrick, William "Bill" O'Brien. Mort Rabinowitz also worked on the film as an illustrator. Mort Rabinowitz became a production designer shortly after working on the Hitchcock feature film. Joe Musso did the set illustrations on the opera house in color and painted Hitchcock's film crew in the audience besides Newman, Julie and Hitch. Hitchcock kept Joe Musso's illustration as his private and personal souvenir. See more »
Or their shadow, anyway. On the road-level shot of Armstrong's taxi leaving the farm (Gromek's motorbike is visible on the left of the screen), just at the very bottom of the image can be seen the shadow of the camera (4:3 television version only). 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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In many ways, Hitchcock often wore the same pants.
Hitchcock made a few clunkers in his day, but this isn't one of them, despite its reputation. I don't know if I could get away with saying it's one of Hitchcock's ten best features, but I found it to be easily one of his top ten most entertaining. I enjoyed watching Torn Curtain a lot more than some of his established classics, like Notorious and the Birds, even if it's not quite as psychologically complex as those films.
The main thing about Torn Curtain is the photography. It's full of pretty pictures--one of the most beautifully filmed of all Hitchcock's films, with lots bold swaths of primary colors and attractive and constantly changing locations--some scenes look like they were shot on location, while others are wonderfully artificial studio creations, and they're blended together perfectly. Another cool thing about Torn Curtain is that it's constantly on the move. It never stagnates. The pacing is deliberate, but engaging. It's well-plotted and suspenseful.
It's full of fantastic little directorial touches, like the scene where Paul Newman ducks into a bathroom to read his secret spy message. Hitchcock never shows us the room. He keeps the camera tight on Paul Newman, so we can't tell who or what might be in that room with us, just out of frame. It's totally simple, but it creates a highly effective feeling of uneasiness and paranoia. This movie also features one of the strangest and best-filmed death scenes I've ever seen. Hitchcock was still on top of his game here.
Most of the bad reviews for Torn Curtain seem to focus on the acting. I don't know why.
A lot of people bash Julie Andrews just for being Julie Andrews, and that hardly seems fair. Typecasting sucks. And while I wouldn't say she turned in one of the most memorable and overpowering performances of all time, her role didn't call for that. Torn Curtain wasn't a complex character study, it was a plot-based thriller. And Julie Andrews was perfectly adequate for that, even pretty good when she was given a chance to be.
Paul Newman was perfect. He wasn't his usual charming self here. He was grim and tight-lipped and stiff--as would be appropriate for a scientist feeling out of his league, playing a spy in a hostile country, having to pretend to be a traitor--a role which he found objectionable--all with his girlfriend annoyingly tagging along and complicating everything.
I understand that Paul Newman found working for Hitchcock objectionable. It makes me wonder if Hitch deliberately made life unpleasant for Paul just to get this kind of tooth-gritting performance from him. Whatever, Hitch and Paul were both great.
And so was this film.
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