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|Index||94 reviews in total|
As most reviewers have noted, there are some nice moments and there are also moments as exciting as watching grass grow. I think the basic flaw of the movie is too many characters combined with a very confusing, "talkie" script. I've watched this several times and come away scratching my head each time. The character of Juanita, along with the actress who played her, brought a nice touch of class to the film. In fact for me, she is the only charter I found interesting, and cared enough about. The opening is good, and several other scenes sprinkled throughout let us know that Hitchcock is still alive and well but this really was a miss fire of a movie, but still far better than what is cranked out today.
A wonderful alternative scenario to the Cuban Missile crisis... and although I wasn't even born until years later, as a student of history, one wonders if Hitcock (as Tom Clancey of the 80s and 90s) didn't know more than he was supposed to... A very difficult plot to follow, but then, so is any real plot involving espionage, murder, and politics of the early 1960s and Cuban, American, and European politics of that time.
After reading some of the negative comments about Topaz, I have wondered if I saw the same movie. For reasons unknown to me, this precious film has been underrated. This is a very good Cold War thriller and critics should revaluate it. I recommend Topaz to Hitchcock's fans. They won't be deceived. I have seen it several times and still is one of my favorites.
I regret to see that this movie has not received the recognition it deserves. Topaz is one of the best movies I have seen and sincerely believe it has been ignored by critics and the press in general. I invite everyone to see Topaz. It has suspense, a fantastic cast and an intriguing plot. It deserves a try, rent it today!
I had never seen this particular Hitchcock until now. After seeing it,
I think it is not only under rated but it ought to get a lot more
respect than it has previously. This is a film that will grow more
respect as more people see it.
John Forsythe is the name actor in this, working with him earlier in Hitches dark comedy, The Trouble With Harry. In this film, Forsythe has no jokes. He is a top American Intelligence official. A lot of unknowns in 1969 played in this, some would get more fame later. Roscoe Lee Brown who just recently passed away has a key role in this film.
The reason this film is under rated I feel, is the lack of appreciation of Alfred going back to some of his earliest talent when he made this film. That was the talent he learned from mentor Fritz Lang, how to tell a story visually. In this film, there are several sequences where Sir Alfred does this with a deft masters touch. This film is better to me than the star powered Torn Curtain spy thriller he did previous to it.
There are times where the story is a little predictable. Leon Iris novel about the true incidents involving the intelligence operations exposing the Russian Missiles in Cuba is the reason for this. You can't change documented history. It has some brilliant backdrops & messages within the film.
Early on the quality of the photography shows up. Even deft subtle touches like Forsythe standing in front of a portrait of JFK stand out. If you really want to see this well, get the TCM version from the boxed set. Not only is the film digitally re mastered, but it has extras including 2 alternate endings tried for the film & Leonard Maltin's commentary on the film. It is interesting that Maltin observes the fascinating use of no sound for suspense employed by Sir Alfred in this movie, but he is not smart enough to realize where Hitchcock got it from.
Hitch was definitely still a great film maker in 1969. Audiences at the time might have still been worried about Russian's and the realism Hitchcock puts into this film is great.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
André Devereaux is a French intelligence agent persuaded by an American
associate to acquire some secret documents help by a Cuban military
leader. He succeeds, but at great cost to his personal life and his
career, and there is a double-agent lurking in his past ...
Topaz is a rare thing - a dull Hitchcock film. Even he made the occasional dud (Waltzes From Vienna, Under Capricorn) and this spy thriller is all talk and not nearly enough action. The story, based on a book by Leon Uris, is good enough, with plenty of intrigue and counter-espionage, and the Cuban Missile Crisis backdrop was sensational at that time. But there are too many characters, none of which are either sympathetic or scary enough and endless scenes where they simply wade through piles of plot exposition. There's a good early sequence with Browne as the French-Caribbean agent trying to photograph the sneaky military pact documents, and Vernon is good as one of Castro's bully-boy lackeys, but lead Stafford is hard to like (he cheats on his wife and uses his family to do his dirty work) and doesn't really achieve much. The tone is uneven and atmosphere scarce; photography, editing and score don't really contribute much - contrast this with something like Psycho, where they are absolutely paramount. This is a lesser companion piece to Hitch's preceding Cold War thriller, Torn Curtain, and he followed it with one of his very best movies - the disturbing, hair-raising and hilarious Frenzy. I wish this movie had even one-tenth of the suspense or humour of that one. In the sixties - and only the sixties - the big movie studios really had no idea what to make; Topaz is one of many films which evidence this.
In the 1960's the escalation of the cold war as a result of the Cuban
Missile Crisis led to a boom in spy films on the big screen. James Bond
was the big franchise of course but there were many others. Alfred
Hitchcock decided to get on this particular bandwagon himself with
Topaz and its predecessor Torn Curtain. Unfortunately, these two films
were the least inspired efforts of his latter career. The problems were
that they lacked the psychological edginess that typified his best
work, their more traditional thrills just weren't consistently inspired
enough to ensure that the films remained compelling from start to
Like many other spy films, Topaz has a globe-trotting plot. It starts in Copenhagen, hops over to Washington, heads up to New York, flies into Cuba and then rounds things off in Paris. There's certainly not anything wrong with any of this, it's just a shame that the story is so uninspired and bland. The answer to the central mystery about the meaning of 'Topaz' itself isn't ultimately proved to be very interesting; while the ending has a very under-whelming feeling to it overall. In truth it really felt like Hitch himself was going through the motions with this one, basically taking us from A to B with the minimum fuss. That's okay, it's efficient but it isn't too much fun and you kind of forget it all too easily.
This is a review of the 2 hour, 16 minute version. After a Russian defector provides them with a lead, American and French intelligence agents have to find out the secret of Operation Topaz. I haven't read the novel, so I can't rate this as an adaptation. The script is a letdown... when I tell you that this is a Cold War spy-thriller complete with gadgets(and just try not to smirk when you see the size of a remote control back then), you'll think it's much more exciting than it is. In reality, it's kinda chatty(granted, the dialog can be really good and clever), the climax is weak and the pacing is uneven. With that said, Hitchcock does work his magic, and this is filmed and edited very nicely(in spite of obeying some traditions of storytelling). The suspense and tension are masterful; the pay-off is reasonable. At its best, this is gripping. Basically everyone delivers a great performance; I don't know any of these actors, and would say that two of them look far too alike and are easy to confuse for one another. Also, not everyone supposed to be Cuban actually looks it. At all. Juanita is stunning and hot. Other female characters, especially the younger ones, are made to look curious and naive. It's cool that they actually clearly went here, to Denmark, Copenhagen, to shoot the beginning. There is a little bloody violence and disturbing content in this. The DVD comes with a half hour long documentary with Leonard Maltin(that I will review on its own page here on the site), three(well, two) alternative endings(they're decent), storyboards, production photographs and the trailer(possibly the least memorable for any picture by Alfred, R.I.P.). I recommend this to big fans. 7/10
Watching "Topaz" the first time, I was amazed Alfred Hitchcock could
produce such a dead-fish movie. Watching it again, I found myself
enjoying the 1960s ambiance and gear-shifting plot, along with a few of
the performances, enough to gain a healthy appreciation for what's good
in this Hitchcock version of the globetrotting spy story.
It's still not THAT good.
It's 1962, and just as the real-life drama of the Cuban Missle Crisis unfolds, Soviet spy master Boris Kusenov (Per-Axel Arosenius) defects to the United States with his family. He knows things the U.S. intelligence man Michael Nordstrom (John Forsythe) wants to know, about both Cuba and a ring of mysterious Frenchmen known as "Topaz" who are passing secrets to the U.S.S.R. To get at the bottom of both, he enlists a trusted friend in French intelligence, Andre Devereaux (Frederick Stafford).
Forsythe is the biggest American name in the cast, and the only one with prior experience with Hitchcock, but he's really just M to Stafford's James Bond, whose Devereaux proves a surprisingly amiable gopher for Uncle Sam.
At one point, Nordstrom pulls Devereaux from a dinner with his family for an on-the-spot spy mission in Harlem involving gun-toting Cuban revolutionaries.
"You understand, this can't have anything to do with us," Nordstrom tells Devereaux after the latter agrees to this escapade. "If anything goes wrong, it's your operation." "I know," Devereaux replies.
Stafford makes the character even harder to grasp by playing him so woodenly, his casting by Hitchcock in such a central role being a major weakness of the film.
The best performances in this film are Roscoe Lee Browne as a Harlem florist Devereaux enlists for the above-mentioned mission; Arosenius as the defector, with a clipped way about him as he plays for the maximum advantage ("I gave you no understanding" he sneers as Nordstrom presses for info); John Vernon, implausibly cast as one of Comrade Fidel's loyal lieutenants but pulling it off with the help of some sinister eyeliner and deadpan humor; and Karin Dor as a Cuban beauty with secret ties.
I can spend a whole evening just staring at the freckle on Dor's lower lip, and you get the feeling Devereaux can, too, in some swoony romantic scenes that show the director of "To Catch A Thief" still could shoot a love scene. It's the suspense sequences that need work; they move very slowly. The opening defection alone takes 15 minutes. It's very easy to tune out of "Topaz" at any time, and come back in five minutes without having missed anything.
Hitchcock was big on something he called "MacGuffins", items of value to the character that serve to trigger their motivations but offer no real substance to the viewer. Here I counted no less than three: an "aide-memoire" between the Cuban and Soviet governments, the missiles themselves, and Topaz. Each gets their own separate section of the film, but the plots do not mesh and the MacGuffins feel weaker, even the real-life one involving those Cuban missiles. There's no reason why information about the missiles can realistically help uncover Topaz, but we are meant to think it somehow can, so the story can move forward.
Not one of Hitchcock's best, or even a good one, "Topaz" still entertains with the odd shot, the funny line, or just the evocative Henry Bumstead set designs. Zipping from Moscow to Copenhagen to Washington to Harlem to Havana and finally Paris makes for a diverting trip, just not a compelling one.
I'm sorry that I missed the thrills that others have proclaimed about this
movie. I found it interesting; but easy to confuse the whole agenda; lacking
action and a half an hour too long. Just my opinion.
A highly ranked Soviet official, who claims knowledge of Russian missiles in Cuba, defects to shelter in America. And a French agent with Cuban connections is asked to help the U.S. expose a spy ring.
The acting is calm and wooden. Passion is obviously missing in this tense drama. The cast includes Frederick Stafford, John Forsythe, Karin Dor and Dany Robin. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this by no means compares with his better known movies.
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