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Torn Curtain (1966)

Approved | | Thriller | July 1966 (UK)
An American scientist publicly defects to East Germany as part of a cloak and dagger mission to find the solution for a formula resin before planning an escape back to the West.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Heinrich Gerhard (as Hansjoerg Felmy)
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Günter Strack ...
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Gisela Fischer ...
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Carolyn Conwell ...
Arthur Gould-Porter ...
Gloria Govrin ...
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Storyline

Professor Michael Armstrong is heading to Copenhagen 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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Suspense! Azione! Sorpresa! [Suspense! Action! Surprise!] See more »

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Thriller

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Approved | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

July 1966 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Cortina rasgada  »

Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Trivia

Universal Studios' Stage 28, The Phantom of the Opera (1925)'s interior European three-tiered box seat horseshoe theatre and stage proscenium used in this film, existed as a permanent standing set. This (as of 2014) is the oldest permanent standing set in Hollywood. In 1965 the Paris Opera theatre interior set had fallen into disrepair, but Universal gave permission for Alfred Hitchcock to use it in the climax of this film. Hitch had his crew (including Joseph Musso, later to become a renowned production illustrator) restore the theatre set back to the way it was originally built for the 1925 Lon Chaney film. The original blueprints for the 1925 film no longer existed in 1964, but Musso had a great 8"x10" photo collection from the film that showed the Paris Opera theater interior in great detail. Based on these archived B&W photos, 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 W. Corso, Burwell Hamrick, William 'Bill' O'Brien. Mort Rabinowitz also worked on the film as an illustrator (he became a production designer shortly after working on this film). Musso did the set illustrations on the opera house in color and painted Hitchcock's film crew in the audience besides Newman, Andrews and Hitchcock. Hitchcock kept Musso's illustration as his private and personal souvenir. See more »

Goofs

Reflected in the window of the farmhouse as Armstrong enters. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Professor Karl Manfred: Are they ever going to get the heating fixed?
Norwegian crewman: They are working at it, Professor. Perhaps some of you scientists would like to give us a helping hand!
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Connections

Referenced in The Music of 'Fahrenheit 451' (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Torn Curtain (Main Title)
Written by John Addison
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
One of Hitchcock's best - and I can prove it
16 July 2001 | by (Canberra, Australia) – See all my reviews

Between "The Birds" and "Frenzy" Hitchcock made three consecutive critical and box office failures: "Marnie (1964), "Torn Curtain" (1966), and "Topaz" (1969). It's natural to want to rehabilitate one or other of these, and most fans and critics, following (of course) François Truffaut, pick "Marnie". But the real hidden gem is "Torn Curtain".

People have found all manner of trivial things to complain about. The leads, it is said, aren't Hitchcock leads. Julie Andrews certainly isn't: unlike most of Hitchcock's American actresses, she imbues her character with warmth and good sense, qualities that may well be out of place in other films - certainly they'd be out of place in "Marnie" - but which are needed here. And Paul Newman is as convincing and sympathetic a Hitchcock hero as any other. ANY other, including my personal favourite, Robert Donat. It's hard not to like Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, but (this cannot be denied) for some reason they're never at their best in Hitchcock films. Paul Newman is.

Then there's the score - everyone has to take turns sinking their boots into the musical score. Yes, it's not by Bernard Herrmann. Yes, Bernard Herrmann was unceremoniously dumped from the project. Yes, Bernard Herrmann was one of Hollywood's best composers. Yes, if his score had been used instead (not that I've heard it), it would probably have changed the character of the film. For the best? That's hard to say. There's more than one musical personality capable of complementing a Hitchcock film, and if you ask me Miklós Rózsa ("Spellbound") and John Williams ("Family Plot"), writing very differently, do just as well as Herrmann would have with similar material. John Addison's score for "Torn Curtain" isn't quite as good, but it's pleasant, and it casts a warm glow over chilly grey surroundings, just as the photography does. And everyone admits the photography is wonderful - Technicolor greys and beiges, with flashes of red. Hitchcock had never been quite this good with colour before. (And no wonder. I just noticed this in the credits: the production designer was the Hein Heckroth - in fact, it was his last film. His first was "The Red Shoes".)

Moreover it's one of Hitchcock's better stories. A man is sent to a foreign country on a mission he finds distasteful; his girlfriend follows him, suspicious about what he's planning to do; they must escape together. It's one of those stories where we can happily follow one party or the other without feeling cheated out of the other storyline. It was Hitchcock's first stab at the "distasteful mission" theme since "The Secret Agent" (1936), which was a failure - not BECAUSE the hero's mission was distasteful to us, but simply because it wasn't a good film in other regards. Hitchcock was wrong to think that when a character does dirty things we'll cease to like him. There's such a thing as moral sympathy: the compromising moral position into which Michael is pushed makes us care about him all the more.

I'll never understand critical consensus about Hitchcock. When he takes one of his successful British films ("The 39 Steps"), one that can hardly be improved upon, and makes a pale imitation of it ("North by Northwest"), critics and audiences cheer. When he takes one of his weaker and more muddled British films and turns it into gold, nobody, not even Hitchcock himself, has a kind word to say. I don't get it. "Torn Curtain" has two fantastic scenes as good as anything Hitchcock ever did (the fight with Gromek, the consultation with the East German scientist) and one of his best bit-part characters (the older middle-aged woman who wants to migrate to America). And there's nothing - NOTHING - wrong with the rest of it.


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