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One of the few poor films of the great mans long career. It's fine for "dyed in the wool" film buffs to point out the few good scenes in this film, but though TOPAZ has it's merits they are neither obvious or relevant to the average movie fan. In a career as long as Hitchcocks the wonder is that he did not make more poor films and it's to his eternal credit that he maintained his high standards throughout his career. But this movie was without doubt his nadir and lacked most of the charactoristics that made his previous films so unique. The story was indeed interesting but the pacing of the film was so sluggish and the direction so lack lustre that suspense was rarely apparent and then never maintained, but simply melted away like smoke as the actors, who seemed rather bored embarked on another long bout of dialogue. As for the ending, well one might ask what ending? Again dedicated movie buffs will appreciate the downbeat ending, but the reaction of the average viewer, for whom the movie was intended, is virtually without exception one of complete disbelief. The ending of this film was quite frankly amazing but for all the wrong reasons. Still, Hitchcock was not washed up yet and shortly after this movie he made Frenzy, not one of his best of course but far better than Topaz. Incidentally the French star of Topaz was killed in a plane crash some years after working on the film, while that other great character actor John Vernon died about two years ago after acting in some fine films over the years.
Topaz is good movie with steady taut pace and well planned out scenes. The start is slow and takes sometime to get to the main plot but gives continuity and credibility to the story . Once the story gains momentum it moves at steady but not boring pace. Some of the shots are brilliant and go on to show genius of Hitchcock. I believe the problem is in the second part of movie, when action takes place in France. The screenplay gets slack, the editing is jarring and ending is abrupt and unsatisfactory. I watched the movie on DVD and saw all the three endings.All seemed inadequate. Overall I enjoyed the movie and was riveted till last 15 min or so. I believe it should be seen at least once.
Topaz I don't think is Alfred Hitchcock's- my favourite director-
weakest film, Jamaica Inn still gets my vote for that. But it is one of
his most disappointing. I cannot say though that it is an irredeemable
film, because it isn't and I have yet to see a Hitchcock film to be so.
It is a well made film, the sets are attractive and atmospheric enough
and the camera work and editing in Juanita's murder scene was
brilliant. The murder was also Topaz's most memorable scene for me,
mainly because of how stunningly aesthetic it was. The brief torture
scene was suspenseful and shocking also, and Hitchcock's cameo was very
entertaining. There are a couple of good performances. Karin Dor was
the most impressive, she was deserving of more to do but she was
intensely sensual and seemed to genuinely care about her situation.
Roscoe Lee Brown's is very colourfully characterised also. John
Forsythe was quite good also, and Phillippe Noiret is engaging. On the
other hand, the film's pacing is plodding, and while there are some
nice touches- the murder scene- and an entertaining cameo Hitchcock
didn't seem to have his heart in it as much of it seemed rather flat.
There are too many characters, and a lot of them are thinly sketched, and nobody else really shines in their roles with Frederick Stafford especially stone-faced and wooden throughout. John Vernon tries hard and has some nice deadpan humour but was severely underused for his villain to be any more of a threat. Dany Robin doesn't have anything to do and doesn't register as a result. The script is too talky and confused, and the storytelling suffers from too much going on to hide a rather thin structure for a film that is too long in the first place, a lack of excitement or nail-biting danger and three alternative endings that manage to be drawn-out and abrupt. It is also rather convoluted, and while Cuba was quite colourfully done atmosphere wise, everything else seemed drab and bland in comparison. Even Maurice Jarre's(responsible for the classic scores of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago) score was a disappointment, there are moments but at the same time too much of it seemed inappropriate and would be more fitting in a different film. Unlike the two scores mentioned, it was also not very memorable, or at least not to me, of all the scores for Hitchcock's films only Torn Curtain's fares worse with me. Overall, I don't think it is as bad as some people have said both in the IMDb reviews, on various message boards and from critics but at the same time I can understand the disappointment. 5/10 Bethany Cox
As interviewed by Truffaut, Hitchcock said he was not interested in
political films. Then he made Torn Curtain and Topaz, unsuccessful cold war
thrillers with awkward, childish anticommunist messages.
Although not as bad as Torn Curtain, Topaz is still one of Hitchcock's least memorable films. It was filmed in various locations around the world, but seems fairly uninteresting. The cast is varied, having no real stars. Main character, played by Frederick Stafford, comes from the George Lazenby-Jean-Claude van Damme school of acting. At least he doesn't seem to have strained his facial muscles by moving them.
In addition to the weak main character, there are many unfocused supporting characters: John Forsythe (belonging to the Frederick Stafford school of acting), Dany Robin (as the wife, almost as naive as Julie Andrews in Torn Curtain), Per-Axel Arosenius (in a dull role, simply annoying) as well as Michel Piccoli and Philippe Noiret, who are good in their disappointingly marginal roles. Karin Dor and John Vernon are very good in their roles.
There's some suspense in the film, once again unlike Torn Curtain. There doesn't seem to be much coherence in the story; characters come and go and the shift from one continent to the other is abrupt. Maurice Jarre's score is also incoherent.There are too many musical elements: the rousing march at the beginning, the electronically enhanced suspense music and the love themes are not connected to one another. Still, it's not as bad as John Addison's music for Torn Curtain.
True to Hitchcock's tradition of having at least one memorable shot in each film, in Topaz it is the magnificent murder scene between two lovers, made as if it were a love scene, with sexual implications. I won't reveal more, but it's a great scene.
Hitchcock was in trouble with this film from the start: he didn't have the story completed when he was beginning to shoot, he didn't have a satisfying ending (he shot three endings) and when the film was completed, he had to cut 17 minutes from it in order to receive distribution for the film in Britain by Rank. All this contributed naturally to the incoherent nature of the film, and despite these troubles, Topaz is surprisingly good. What's more interesting, the edited 17 minutes will apparently be restored on the new video release of the film.
While this bland cold war thriller is watchable, it represents the
least interesting of Hitchcock's '60s films, which steadily declined
from the 1960 high point Psycho. It is a rather odd film for Hitchcock;
not only does it lack the star power he generally uses, but it lacks
engaging characters, with only Roscoe Lee Brown offering any real
personality in a small role. The story is pretty dry, and Hitchcock was
always better at elevating fantasy than finding the compelling in the
matter of fact (Martin Ritt, whose Spy Who Came in from the Cold is the
ultimate cold war spy movie, could have done more with this).
While there are some suspenseful moments, and the occasional striking image (as when a woman's dress billows out like a pool of blood), overall the movie just doesn't have much to it.
If I'd been watching Hitchcock's output in the '60s I would have considered him finished with this movie. Fortunately Alf's fortunes rose in the '70s.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a pretty odd Hitchcock film because the territory is pretty
unfamiliar to his audiences. This and the prior film, THE TORN CURTAIN
are both about the battle between Communism and Democracy instead of
the usual individual stories about murder.
This movie is a background story about how the Cuban Missile Crisis came to the attention of the US government. The story is set in France and their government is inundated with Communists and Communist spies posing as defenders of the Republic. The focus of all this is a lone brave agent that stumbles upon the story but he finds due to infiltration, his own countrymen either don't care or won't allow themselves to believe that their country is so compromised. Ultimately, this brave man is forced to take another approach, as he understands that world peace might be at stake if something doesn't happen and fast! This film is a highly entertaining but cerebral look at the Cold War that would be of interest to most anyone but a die-hard nationalistic French person. They wouldn't find this movie interesting in the least--especially due to Uris' assertion that the French were in bed with the Russians, so to speak (say it isn't so!). I've also read the novel and the film adaptation is excellent.
Clearly one of Alfred Hitchcock's more experimental movies, "Topaz" focuses on Frenchman Andre Devereaux (Frederick Stafford) getting involved in espionage right before the Cuban Missile Crisis. The plot is actually somewhat convoluted. Something that nowadays makes us cringe is the casting of white people as Hispanics. An example is John Vernon - that's right, crotchety old Dean Wormer! - as Cuban agent Rico Parra. I have to admit that the only other cast members whom I recognized were Philippe Noiret and John Forsythe...unless you also count the footage of Fidel Castro speaking. All in all, sort of confusing, but worth seeing.
In the period after "Psycho", Hitchcock seemed to lurch from one very
different film to the next. Almost mirroring his early British period in
which he experimented with a variety of genres, his later period sees him
leave familiar territory and, almost losing his way, try out a variety of
movies with varying degrees of success.
I hate to be the millionth person to say it but "Topaz" is by far the worst effort in this last batch. I tried desperately to like it. Having read tonnes of reviews slating it to the hills I felt sure it would be an underrated masterpiece and while I have seen worse films in general, Hitch misfires all the way through this one.
From the mumbled, wooden performances to the complex plot and rushed ending this film is a mystery - how did it ever get made in the first place? There isn't even any typical Hitchcock touches in the rather flat direction.
See this if you're a fan of the great man and want to see as many films of his as possible, but don't hold your breath for too long. "Topaz" is a huge disappointment - the only good thing is that Hitch was back on form for his next project.
I don't have a lot to say about 'Topaz'. It was towards the end of Hitchcock's career, and I imagine he was running out of steam. Bottom line is that the movie is surprisingly boring. The characters are dull as well. I believe that there is all of one good scene in the movie. What surprised me the most however, especially since Hitchcock directed it, what that the acting was horrible. Perhaps he couldn't cast James Stewarts and Cary Grants, but there must have been someone that could act. I don't know. All I can say is that is you only watch one Hitchcock movie in your life, please don't make it this one. Watch Notorious or Rear Window instead. 5 out of 10.
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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