|Page 6 of 9:||        |
|Index||82 reviews in total|
It's 1962, and the United States suspects the Russians are getting too
cozy with the Cubans. French agent Frederick Stafford (as Andre
Devereaux) is recruited, by the Americans, to find out what's going on
between the Socialist allies - and, as it turns out, the Soviets are
secretly installing offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. Go figure.
Which country knows what, and how much they know, leads the film's
characters to a spy ring called "Topaz". Surprising "romantic"
entanglements move the plot along.
The sexual affairs, storyline, and "location" footage are only 50% plausible; the "multiple choice" endings are on even shakier ground. "The Airport" seems to be the current authorized (by Universal) ending, but none of the three work because there is no climatic pursuit, or conversation about the revelatory love affair involving the "Topaz" leader. Still, this is a marvelously directed and nicely performed film. Director Alfred Hitchcock knows how to shoot light bulbs, staircases, and Karin Dor in a purple dress.
******* Topaz (12/17/69) Alfred Hitchcock ~ Frederick Stafford, Dany Robin, Michel Subor, Michel Piccoli
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.
After reading a few of the other comments, I wonder if I saw the same movie. Other than a few effective visuals, Topaz is one of the dullest spy movies I've ever seen. The acting is uniformly wooden, the male lead (Frederick Stafford) has no charisma, and the ending is too abrupt. A real misfire from Hitchcock.
Hitchcock had already worked with French actors:Pierre Fresnay in "the
man who knew too much ,1st version" Brigitte Auber and Charles Vanel in
" to catch a thief" or Louis Jourdan in " the Paradine case".But in
Topaz ,French actors outnumber the others.And it is a very strange
gathering: Dany Robin was a romantic female lead of the two previous
decades ;Michel Subor was an earnest intellectual thespian ;Michel
Piccoli and Philippe Noiret were two sixties favorites;and Claude Jade
was François Truffaut's protégée ,which may help her or not become part
of the cast.Add the poor man's James Bond F.Stafford( OSS 117 in
France) and you realize that it was impossible to get a high standard
In the "Hitchcock/Truffaut "book, the French director reveals that AH had to cut some scenes which made the audience laugh (a duel between Piccoli and Stafford);that he did not know,for the first time in his life,how to end his film;that he (and it's obvious) imitated Costa-Gavras's "Z" ending .
"Topaz" ,unlike " torn curtain" ,an underrated spy thriller,is probably AH's latter days' worst movie.
Not much reason to go on and on about this one. It has viewers willing to put on blinders in an effort to protect the legacy of Hitchcock, but even the best filmmakers have their mediocrities. This is one of Hitch's mistakes and he knew it going in. He was a commercial filmmaker who was suffering like many of the other old timers (Zinnemann, Stevens, Hawks, etc.) with the late 60's filmic collapse of the old order. He needed work and Uris' best-selling novel was his way back in. Unfortunately it wasn't his cup of tea and it shows. The film is directly almost mechanically, with a TV movie look to it, and a score from the always second-rate Maurice Jarre that is as dull as the direction. A very, very talky movie with a cast that is nearly uniform in its lack of charisma. Then there is the miscasting of John Vernon as a Cuban leader (being made-up to resemble Castro). Perhaps if Hitch had a John F. Kennedy character played by Gilbert Roland it might have been a funny ethnic joke, but it's really the sad old tale of ignoring actors that fit the race or nationality of the part in order to give the job to a white actor (about the same time as this we got Jack Palance as Castro and Omar Sharif as Che Guevara in "Che!") Anyway, it's a three-part story with a few effective moments cancelled out by the plodding nature of the whole enterprise. During the end of the second "phase" of the film, the Cuban section, it appears we're seeing something build up, but then that ends like the finish of a TV episode and we're off to the last, incredibly talky and dull section in Paris... where the film finds its finish at the airport with characters talking and talking. This is NOT the way Hitchcock ends his films: it's neither comic or action-packed. Consider the climactic airport scene in "Bullitt" that came out the year previous to this film: action and suspense combined wonderfully---and directed by an otherwise secondary filmmaker named Peter Yates. Thankfully Hitch moved on to "Frenzy" a few years later and regained some luster lost by the combined failures of "Marnie," "Torn Curtain" and this debacle.
The worst script I've ever seen in a Hitchcock film. The acting is mediocre at best. Most of the characters behave like robots on anti- depressants. Plot suffers from an overdose of predictability. Story based on stereotypes that would make even the hokiest hack writer blush. About as subtle as an elephant in heat. Probably financed by the John Birch Society. Great footage of NY in the 60s. Cinematography pretty good. Good for a laugh - although I don't think that was the intended reaction. It is hard to believe that Hitch would have bothered with such a project. There is not a speck of thrill in this dull thriller that numbs the sensibility of even the most hardcore Hitchcock fan.
I cannot help it. I appreciate the effort of trying to portray the Cuba
crisis in a realistic way without one central character playing the
super hero. Yes, I do appreciate it, and I liked having French people
be the main heroes. I can appreciate all that, but I still found the
film absolutely boring, boring beyond compare.
There are moments when something like suspense or excitement can be felt, but there is no suspense running through the whole movie, nothing holding the audience's interest for the entire story.
Similarly, there is one great, beautiful shot in the middle of the movie, but the rest of the thing is filmed in a bleak, normal style... If this is intended, if the realistic look is intended, then why add this one gorgeous shot at all? It doesn't fit in there at all, and strengthens my impression of Topaz being 'nothing'. An attempt at best. An attempt at making a realistic thriller about spies involved in the Cuba Crisis, a beyond the scenes showing several nationalities work together or against each other... An attempt that failed in every aspect: It didn't find a visual style; the main character could as well have been a cardboard cut-out for all the impression he makes; the script has never heard of the word "climax".
In fact, I half-missed the ending, because I was just making some sort of comment to a friend next to mine, and suddenly the film was over. I don't normally talk in important scenes, let alone during endings. I usually pick scenes that seem not-so-important to me, if I really do have something to point out, or ask, and cannot hold back... I guess that says it all: I didn't feel that the end was approaching. The film was just suddenly over, ending in a very, very unspectacular way. Everything it gave me was this emptiness.
It's too bad. This could certainly have been better. There were things that were somewhat interesting, like the resistance fighters in Cuba, whose inventive methods kept me entertained for a brief while. But like I said, the movie as a whole is just boring, even if episodes or instances strike me as nice. What a waste.
Hitchcock's attempt to do a movie of Uris's cold war spy novel is
entertaining, as all Hitchcock's films are, but I would wager that he
agonized over this one. He was very good in the scenes where the
politicians/intelligence agents are meeting over 'who knows what about
whom, and what does it mean, and who is going to leak what to whom, and
how will this affect everyone, and let's do whatever it takes to find
out.' Hitchcock is always a genius in the one-on-one close-ups whereby
body language so betrays the hidden dark secrets, but I am not so sure
about the scenes that are supposed to explain to a movie audience just
who is an enemy of whom, and who is out to stab whom in the back (if
you know what I mean). Personally, I think Cubby Broccoli does a better
job of these kinds of spy stories in the James Bond series.
The Hitchcock action sort of stops and starts in jerky movements, like a car with a faulty engine. Copenhagen, to Washington, to Cuba, to Paris, back to Washington. Getting on planes, getting off planes. From unhappy wives to anxious daughters to an ambitious son-in-law (his loyalty was to whom? And what exactly was his purpose in the film?) From enigmatic mistresses to servants who are agents (for whom? and why?) The only explanation: "Cuba is a prison." Huh? In the early days Castro was a saint! To me, the best scene in the movie is that of getting the defector and his family out of Copenhagen. That was pure Hitchcock. Hitchcock never gave attention to the blatant "kissy, kissy" stuff in his movies like he did in this one. The romance was almost also implied, which made it even more magic. Those particular scenes in this one felt like A) filler or B) everyone in Hollywood is doing it; we should also do it.
This movie was to me one of the weakest of the Hitchcock events. It is painful to compare it to "North by Northwest," "Rear Window," "Witness for the Prosecution," "Dial M...,' etc, etc, etc. The morale of this experience is, stay true to yourself and your craft, no matter what.
I personally found Topaz engaging and interesting. But I found myself wondering why the lead character was written to have a wife and very blatantly a lover in a different country. It didn't make him less likable and that in itself is interesting. For some reason, the lead male character is sympathetic despite his blatant disregard for his wife's feelings. It is obvious a man wrote this story. A woman would have found the infidelity of the lead character appalling. That aside, Topaz is interesting to watch even if it becomes a bit like a soap with the dramatic interpersonal relations and the emotions so closely shot on the character's faces. The movie is well done and well acted but very complicated. Lot's of on location shots make the atmosphere good but at times it seems a bit over dramatic. Still, Hitchcock fans will probably enjoy this. The ending seems a bit odd but the DVD has 3 different endings so you can pick your own out of the three.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I give this a 'Seven' instead of a 'Six' only because I'm a huge fan of
Hitchcock, and the film has possibly the greatest death scene/shot in
movie history (the death of Juanita). The other reviewer hit the nail
on the head when he/she wrote that most people are used to 'faster' or
more 'suspenseful' Hitchcock, and truth be told, I believe that is how
he should be remembered (I mean, is there anyone else who came
close?!!). However, 'Vertigo', which many claim is his masterpiece,
doesn't really fall into the staple Hitch canon, although it does
produce its own kind of suspense because we don't know what's going to
happen with Scottie and Judy/Madeleine.
The production values are high of course, being a studio export. And, if you didn't know Hitchcock directed the film - and then watched it, you would know soon enough. Why, the flower shop scene or the bribing of Uribe - are classic Hitchcock tactics.
Overall, this story is not that suspenseful despite the incredibly dire historical context. Things get a little more interesting with scenes like when Parra's lieutenant recognizes Devereaux in the Castro speech crowd - but it's Devereaux's Cuban contacts that suffer for his probing, not him. In light of this, a felt the film generated a good degree of pathos for freedom fighters the world over - especially when Mrs. Mendoza is holding her dead? husband in her arms, just before she gives up Juanita to Parra.
And for what it's worth, I think Hitchcock's cameo is one of the best he ever had - hilarious!
|Page 6 of 9:||        |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Official site||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|