Like so many Hollywood talents, Hitchcock was stereotyped. Also like so many Hollywood talents, whenever he tried to escape stereotyping, he would get criticized. That certainly was the case with TOPAZ. Although not as humorous, nor as romantic, nor even as exciting as the director's best films, the movie is nonetheless an intelligent and intriguing spy drama, one that compares more to a motion picture like DAY OF THE JACKYL than usual Hitchcock fare.
His other spy dramas, like NORTH BY NORTHWEST, may be more fun, but none of them are as realistic. In fact, very few spy films have the authenticity as TOPAZ. The story is based on fact. In 1962, a Russian top-level KGB defector informed the U.S. that some very high-level French diplomats, in a group called "Sapphire", were selling secrets to the Soviet Union. TIME Magazine printed this story in April 26, 1968, and did so using the same source that Leon Uris did: the U.S. sympathizing (and exiled) former Chief of French Intelligence, Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli.
Incidentally, a viewer needs to know the chronology and key events surrounding the 1962 Cuban Missile Crises as background, or else the film will be confusing. I suspect many critics condemn it because it's easier for them to dismiss the film rather than confront their own ignorance.
Not that this movie is without weaknesses. Hitchcock was no realist, and the grim world of films like THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is probably the type of ambiance it should have presented, but doesn't. However, I definitely join the camp of those who consider it underrated. I read writers on Hitchcock who unthinkingly rank TOPAZ with his worst stuff, and yet many of us prefer it over THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, MR. AND MRS. SMITH, and other Hitchcock works that don't get castigated as nearly as much. I can't help but suspect they receive less criticism because they are more typical Hitchcock. This film is atypical Hitchcock, so readjust your expectations accordingly.
"Topaz" is at its best when Alfred Hitchcock lets the camera tell the story: there are several small but brilliant moments in this film. But while his direction is still masterful, his pacing certainly isn't - the film often feels talky and plodding. The abrupt ending is another problem - one of the alternative endings, the airport one, sounds much better (unfortunately I haven't had the chance to see it yet). Frederick Stafford is no Cary Grant or even Rod Taylor, but he does the job; so do the rest of the actors, with Phillipe Noiret a standout in a brief role and Karin Dor adding a touch of sensuality to the proceedings. On the whole, "Topaz" is not even among Hitchcock's Top 10 pictures, but his fans will still have fun spotting his touches here and there. His cameo - a wheelchair-bound man who suddenly gets up and starts walking (!) - is just one of them. (**1/2)
EDIT: I finally did see the airport ending: it is undeniably better than the present one, but still a bit too abrupt.
Topaz was the third from the last of the great Alfred Hitchcock's films and in those last few films Hitch eschewed using big American box office names. No doubt he'd come to the conclusion that his was the biggest box office name on the credits.
But if the leading and many of the supporting players were not known to American audiences they were certainly known to French audiences. Dany Robin, Frederick Stafford, Phillippe Noiret, Michel Subor, Michel Piccoli all have had substantial careers in the French cinema.
Topaz is certainly an international thriller with the action going from Copenhagen, to Harlem, to Cuba, and finally Paris. Only Cuba was not shot on actual location for obvious reasons.
The film is based on a spy novel surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. A Russian defector whose defection with his family is very nicely shot in Copenhagen hints at some major problems coming our way in the Pearl of the Antillies. Our biggest problem though is that because of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, we've got no real intelligence on the ground in Cuba. What to do?
Well if you're John Forsythe there's been a reason you've been cultivating the French for years. He goes to Frederick Stafford of French intelligence and asks him to find out what's happening in Cuba.
History in 1962 bares witness to what was happening in Cuba at that time, but also Stafford is concerned the Russians have a spy real high up in the French government, code name, Topaz.
There's a romantic angle here to, so very French. Stafford makes use of his mistress, a Cuban girl played by Karin Dor who wife Dany Robin has reasons to be suspicious of. Then again she's not sitting home waiting for the grass to grow under her feet. She's having a fling with Michel Piccoli who is a friend of her husband.
International Geopolitics and romantic affairs are all tied together in this novel which Hitchcock serves up with his usual touch.
What a sad end both the leads in this film had. Frederick Stafford was killed in a plane crash in 1979 and Dany Robin and her husband died in an apartment house fire in 1995. Truly a cursed film.
Besides those mentioned look for good performances by John Vernon as a Castro aide and wannabe and from Roscoe Lee Browne who's an operator for French Intelligence in Harlem. I kid you not.
It's not one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films, but Topaz is entertaining enough and Hitchcock fans won't be disappointed.
While Leon Uris' book is a good read, Hitchcock's adaptation of the book for cinema captures much of the book's selling points. The killing of Juanita by Rico Parra is central to book and the film. The book has a sensual scene where Juanita distracts Parra to allow Andre to escape before she is killed. In the film, Hitchcock dispenses with the sexual distraction to go directly to the killing. The killing of Juanita captured by the overhead camera, shows the purple gown spreading in the floor as blood would have spread. No blood is shownonly the gown. What a brilliant shot from Hitchcock and cameraman Jack Hildyard! The second remarkable facet of the movie is the performance of Phillip Noiret as a French bureaucrat and spy. The lunch sequence (a typical Hitchcock food event) may look simple but the montage of shots capturing Noiret's apparent interest in the food than the conversation is truly engaging. Noiret is a fine actor. So is Michel Piccoli. The two of them outshine Frederick Stafford and John Forsythe.
The third most fascinating shot is post-torture interrogation of Mrs Mendozathe whispered response from a posture that reminds one of Michelangelo's Pietawith her dead husband replacing the dead Christ.
Hitchcock's perseverance with "marriage" continues. Andre blandly tells his daughter of his wife "She left me. I did not leave her" after a tryst with his lover in Havana. The Michel Piccoli character says of Andre's wife "Andre, his wife and I were very close. She married him." We know later that Andre's wife was cheating on him as she recognizes the Piccoli character's phone number at his secret love nest.
The defection sequence in Copenhagen might look clumsybut Hitchcock's style is everywherefaces in mirrors, close up of a porcelain figure about to be dropped with no music in the background, etc. What was most amusing was the criticism of the American espionage agents: "We would have done it better" and the exchange of words by the defector in Washington, D.C. Andre's outburst to his bosses on the outcome of French intervention in the defection would lead to the defector's assassination is equally poignant had the film ended with the French spy defecting to Russia (one of the alternate endings).
Finally, Hitchcock's use of the newspaper headlines during key scenes in the background was interesting: The Pieta shot had the newspaper shot in the background and the newspaper left behind on a bench in Paris is the final shot. The alternate endingsthe duel and the departure of the spies to two cold-warring countries would not have served well as well the suicide of the spy suggested by the gunshot in his house.
Unfortunately, I'd only come across the weak ending version. Despite of that, it's a truly Hitchcockian film. The memorable scenes are pure and exclusively visual: the intriguing start, the stealing of the documents, the death of Juanita, the torturing of the cuban spies, the discovery of the body at Jarre's apartment, the meal of the french officers...
Hitchcock used to take technical challenges in every one of his films, I assume that here he committed to deliver the most complicated information concerning the plot without using dialogue, and he succeed.
There's a lot of subtle humor and some clever twists. The cuban officers are just great, absolutely surreal. I loved the atmosphere in that hotel room, with people doing paperwork, smoking cigars and drinking, and the detail of the hamburger wrapped in the document. I think the very broad differences in tone between the three main sections of the film affects the pace and the appreciation of the story as a whole.
It's amazing how Hitchcock managed to survive in it in the light of the multitude of trouble this film went through.
Watching the video version edited in Norway had its extra. Amazingly, all subtitles were delayed a good five, six minutes throughout the entire film, so you actually had text during the silent scenes and incongruities such as love words during killings.
"Topaz" is one of Hitchcock's least satisfying films, yet the same time it's one of his most interesting ones, as well. Usually people don't remember it, maybe because there are no famous Hitchcock stars. Either the director didn't get any, or he didn't want them, because the audiences should tightly concentrate on the complex plot.
The film clearly divides into three parts. The one in the middle, which takes place in Cuba, is the best of them. It involves the films most memorable scene, the beautifully photographed murder. Weakest part is the last one, where you might get confused with the messy intrigues.
There are too many characters in the movie, which leaves many of them just bystanders, for example the worried wife (Dany Robin), who doesn't do really anything. The films brightest spot is Karin Dor, who gives an excellent performance as the beautiful Juanita. Too bad that her screen time is quite short. And the ending climax shines with its absence: the film ends like bumping into a wall.
One aspect of "Topaz" that should be kept in mind is that while American and British critics were belittling Hitchcock as a "mere entertainer," the French New Wave critics, led by Francois Truffaut, were lionizing him and Truffaut even published a book-long interview with Hitchcock published in 1967.
Hitchcock hadn't worked in years and was desperately trying to get another movie going when Universal showed him the book "Topaz" -- about spies in the French government, with a French protagonist and climactic scenes in Paris. I think that Hitchcock may have -- unwisely -- decided to do "Topaz" so he could do a "French picture."
There are some great individual scenes in Topaz -- the opening defection in Copenhagen, the suspenseful mission to get secrets from the Cubans in Harlem's Hotel Theresa (Hitchcock in Harlem?!); the hero's dangerous mission into Cuba and the death of his key contact there.
But Hitchcock really didn't like making "Topaz," he was bored and ill and resentful (Universal had killed a project called "Frenzy" -- not to be confused with the 1972 film he made of that name -- and Hitchcock was bitter about it.)
So we end up with a very half-hearted Hitchcock movie with a few good scenes, no real stars, THREE failed endings (all available to see on the DVD), and an attempt to "make nice with my French friends."
Good but no great Hitch film that maintains suspense level , including constant shift of scenarios keeps spectators on their toes . A French intelligence agent named Andre Deveraux (Frederick Stafford) befriends American official called Michael Nordstrom (John Forsythe) and both of whom become involved in the Cold War politics to dig out info , first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to discover a secret conspiracy . Andre travels to La Habana to obtain evidences of the Missiles , there meets his lover named Juanita Cordoba (Karin Dor who wears marvelous gowns by Edith Head and dubbed her own voice in the German Version) who is secretly embroiled with a local underground resistance whilst also being entangled in another way with Parra (John Vernon) . Meanwhile, an ex-KGB official defector flees to USA where he is interviewed and tells him about Topaz, the codename for a group of French officials in high circles who work for the Soviet Union , as the protagonists attempt to break up an international Russian spy ring (Philippe Noiret , Michel Piccoli) infiltrated in French government .
This suspenseful Hitchcock film contains cloak-and-dagger intrigue , whirlwind plot , thrills , twists and results to be pretty entertaining . Hitchcock takes you behind the actual headlines to expose the most explosive spy scandal of the century, though this was reportedly one of his most unhappy directing jobs , being Alfred's biggest failure , as it cost approximately $4,000,000 to make and received only $1,000,000 at the box office. According to Donald Spoto's book "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years Of His Motion Pictures", Universal Pictures executives forced this project on Alfred Hitchcock. Overlong film as a running at 143 minutes, this is Alfred Hitchcock's longest film . The first draft of the script was hired Leon Uris to adapt his own novel , but Uris didn't care for Hitchcock's eccentric sense of humor, nor did he appreciate the director's habit of monopolizing all of his time as they worked through a script. Hitchcock was disappointed that Uris seemed to ignore his requests to humanize the story's villains , in his opinion the novel painted them as cardboard monsters , with only a partial draft completed, Uris left the film. Alfred declared it unshootable at the last minute and called in Samuel A. Taylor , writer of Vertigo , to rewrite it from scratch , as some scenes were written just hours before they were shot. According to Alfred Hitchcock, this was another of his experimental movies ; in addition to the dialogue, the plot is revealed through the use of colors, predominantly red, yellow and white , he admits that this did not work out. Good support cast mostly formed by European actors who give nice interpretations such as : Dany Robin as Nicole Devereaux , Vernon as Rico Parra , gorgeous Karin Dor as Juanita Cordoba , Michel Piccoli a Jacques Granville , Philippe Noiret as Henri Jarre , Claude Jade as Michèle Picard and Roscoe Lee Browne as Philippe Dubois . Of course , habitual Director Cameo , as Alfred Hitchcock appears about 30 minutes in at the airport getting out of a wheelchair . Emotive and sensitive score by Maurice Jarre , Jean Michel Jarre's father ; knowing that he had no ear for music, Alfred Hitchcock didn't even bother listening to Maurice Jarre's completed score for the film, slotting it onto the images without a quibble . Colorful and bright cinematography by excellent cameraman Jack Hildyard who photographed 'Bridge on the river Kai' and David Lean's usual . Appropriate production design by Henry Bumstead , Hitch's ordinary . This is a medium-to-rare Hitchcock picture in which was shot three versions with completely different endings , all are included in the Laserdisc , video , DVD and BluRays reissues.
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.
Topaz (1969) is the 51st Alfred Hitchcock movie.In the year 1962 there's the cold war going on.The story takes you to Denmark, NYC, Washington DC, Paris and Cuba when it was ran by a man named Fidel Castro.Remember? Topaz is based on the novel by Leon Uris.This is not Hitchcock's best work but it's not bad either.He couldn't make a bad movie.Hitchcock at worst would be a masterpiece to some directors of our time.One thing this movie was criticized about was that it didn't have any big stars there.That may be a little problem, but just a little.There still are some great actors performing their parts.The most known name would be the now 90 year old John Forsythe.Also the late Roscoe Lee Browne is in the movie.Frederick Stafford is there.Michel Subor, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret and so on.There are many French actors in this movie and people were probably expecting Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart.Nevertheless this is a good movie.Not the best of Hitch but for a man with so many masterpieces under his belt you couldn't expect him hit the jackpot every time.
Based on Leon Uris' novel of the same name about the tense days of the Cuban missile crisis, Alfred Hitchcock's `Topaz' is an underrated cold-war thriller - - underrated by English-speaking audiences and critics probably because the chief protagonist is a Frenchman! The first half of the movie is especially exciting, starting as it does with the defection (very realistically filmed) of a top Soviet official to the U.S, who hints at the existence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.. Frederick Stafford very adequately plays Andre Deveraux, the French trade official with Cuban connections whose help is requested by the Americans. Karin Dor is excellent as his beautiful Cuban paramour. Hitchcock's initial portrayal of Castro's Cuba is that of a rather benign place, but quickly changes to a frightening place later in the movie when the director clearly delineates the full brutality of his terrible regime. Deveraux's allies in Cuba are tortured and killed. The last third of the film, set in France, is not as exciting. The movie takes it own time exposing the members of the Topaz spy ring. The transition of the action from Cuba to France is abrupt and is another weakness of this flick. Maybe, `Topaz' should have been filmed in 2 parts, one about the Cuban missile crisis and another about French fellow-travellers! This is, perhaps, the only movie in which Hitchcock seems to show some sympathy towards those who get murdered, as evidenced by the final scene, which shows the ironical contrast between the superficial newspaper headline about the Cuban missile crisis ending and the grim fates of the unsung secret agents who helped end it. `Topaz' is one of the best cold-war movies ever made. Critics should re-evaluate it. But it is only a good Hitchcock movie, not his best.
Alfred Hitchcock's "Topaz" was unpopular and quickly forgotten about, largely because he dared to do something that most filmmakers avoided: make a realistic movie about espionage. "Topaz" has none of the glamour or excitement of the James Bond pictures nor does it even have much of a happy ending. The master spy Davereaux (Frederick Stafford) uses and gratuitously sacrifices the lives of his underlings to uncover information that merely serves to confirm other spy information that the Americans have already gathered. Davereaux appears to find his job particularly distasteful, but at the same time he goes ahead with his mission with a stoicism that could easily be confused for coldness. If you consider Davereaux's demeanour at the end of the picture and the flashback to all the casualties that he leaves behind, you'll see what I mean.
So "Topaz" is an austere and dark film. The brief torture scene has to be one of the most brutal moments ever depicted in any of Hitchcock's films, which for all their suspense usually spare the audience the horror of having to see uncompromising, graphic violence (Psycho and Frenzy, of course, are important exceptions). Lastly "Topaz" is also a surprisingly realistic film, in that the spies do not lead happy, glamorous lives, but are forced to perform very distasteful tasks that would drive a normal, decent person to despair.
One of Hitchcock's last movies, TOPAZ is actually an excellent movie. Sure, it's not Psycho or Rope, but it's a classic in its own right. Too many people who think "007" when they hear "spy movie" have probably seen this movie and been turned off by its realism and lack of explosions.
The acting is somewhat wooden, but it's not terribly noticeable until after the movie, when you have time to think about it. And the ending is incredibly abrupt, but so was the ending to Vertigo, and no one complains about that.
Hitchcock's work here is fabulous. The murder scene is absolutely incredible (the purple dress), one of Hitchcock's finest moments ever (up there with the Spellbound milk-drinking and the Rear Window climax). Another excellent moment, as previously mentioned, is the wordless bribing of secretary Uribe in the beginning of the movie. The opening scene of defection and the torture scene are also very good.
The plot is very good as well. Unlike Torn Curtain, which falls into nothing but repetitive scenes and events, Topaz's plot is coherent and engaging. It features several great twists and turns, and although many characters do have underdeveloped parts, that seems almost necessary to keep the movie under 3 hours.
It's not a Hitchcock classic, but it is certainly an excellent movie, and it deserves to receive much more credit than it does.
I've seen most of Hitchcock's films, most of them many times, and I've seen all his later films.
I like Topaz. It has its problems. First off, although it may seem unimportant to some, Hitchcock has long relied on Bernard Hermann for some great soundtracks. Not only was Bernard not contributing to this film, but the music is inappropriate, light hearted, and almost comedic. It helps to destroy whatever atmosphere has been built up.
Although the most beautiful scene is the one where the woman is shot, there are plenty of Hitchcock moments in here. Perhaps the best scene takes place in a porcelin statuette shop. There are plenty of overloaded psychological images in here, such as women walking away with their backs turned, etc. The scene where the defectors are approaching the plane has some of that Hitchcock aura about it. If the soundtrack were more weighty, it might help complete the mood. For example, the wry thriller To Catch a Thief is helped along with an incredibly weighty soundtrack. If this scene had some of that music ... but I repeat myself.
As others have explained, the movie has four parts, one involving the defection, another involving some intrigue in NYC and Wash DC, a third part set in Cuba, and a fourth set in Paris.
The first part is a moderate success. This is familiar terrain for Hitchcock and he does not fail. The defection and delivery of the Russian agent and his family has all of the suspense and excitement one would expect of a moderately successful Hitchcock film.
The film begins to drag in the Washington DC and NYC segments. The casting of Vernon as the Cuban revolutionary is unsatisfactory. He doesn't project a Cuban persona. Hitchcock should have gone for the jugular, and cast a real hispanic person in this role and tried to deliver the aura. Instead, he used a white bread character, and it just doesn't come off, despite Vernon's excellent attempt. The black actor who photographs the documents - he does an excellent job and the film would have benefitted with more of him about. He manages to tread the line between ruthless/frightening and light-hearted/likable. I wouldn't know whether to trust him or to run from him.
Things get interesting again during the Cuban segment, but something always seems to drag them down. Maybe it's Vernon's character. There is clearly a play at the James Bond character taking shape here, with the other actor, except this is a slightly more complicated, and morally compromised character, which makes it more interesting.
The last segment of the film, in Paris, has the greatest potential to open up on a new work. I would have liked to have seen more about these characters. For once, we get some red-blooded characters, motivation, complication, emotion, desire, fear, intrigue, double-crossing, etc. This should have been the heart of the film: two men making a play for the same woman, where all three had fought together during the war, and now they play for opposite sides, with a love triangle thrown in. The French characters are good, believable, but this segment of the movie moves along and ends too quickly to ever amount to anything beyond a tease.
So, I like this film, but it's many grades below other Hitchcock films, no question. On the other hand, I think it's a little bit better than Torn Curtain. I shouldn't say that - Torn Curtain has some great scenes, probably better than Topaz, but I think Topaz had the makings for a better film - it's just not realized. They're very similar. Torn Curtain is more successful, but Topaz has a real plot, whereas Torn Curtain is pretty much a glorified chase scene.
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!
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.
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.
You must see this movie even if you have before. You must see the DVD version, offering the widescreen version and about a half hour of deleted footage that had no right being deleted in the first place. Many important scenes and dialogue were cut for the video release, and haven't been put back in until recently. This is an very underated Hitchcock movie. It contains all the suspense that Hitchcock enjoyed. There are NO STARS in this movie. I can see why it failed at the box office because it's lack of star power. Although the actors are just as good as any superstar. Actually I believe it to be more REAL to see lesser known actors and actually masterful on Hitchcock's part. It's the story of the Cold War, during the days of the Cuban Missle Crisis and the secret spy ring -- Topaz. Great performances and masterful direction. ****/*****. Avoid Maltin's documentary of the movie on the DVD! -- What an arrogant critic.
Topaz is directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is based on the novel by Leon Uris and stars John Forsythe, Frederick Stafford, Roscoe Lee Browne and Karin Dor.
Topaz is one of Hitchcocks last films and seems to have been unfairly dismissed as not one of Hichcock's best. It is a very good film, a thrilling spy story which works better not having a famous cast, you get the impression these are real people caught up in all of this.
C.I.A agent Michael Nordstrom(John Forsythe)sends one of his friends a French agent called Devereaux(Fredrick Stafford)to Cuba to investigate something called Topaz.The mission becomes very dangerous and Juanita de Cordoba (Karin Dor)the Cuban woman Devereaux loves and who assists him in gathering information is tragically murdered.Filled with plenty of suspense,thrills and betrayal this is a gripping film filled with excellent performances.
I agree completely with the previous reviewer that "Topaz", while not in the same ballpark as Hitchcock's best is still an underrated film that's gotten too much of a bum rap. I appreciate the fact that it's willing to take a look at the Castro regime for exactly what it has been and always will be. The tense scene where we watch Roscoe Lee Browne from a distance, with no dialogue and only the sound of street noises, bribe a Cuban official to get important material, ranks with Hitchcock's best. And Karin Dor is both radiantly sexy and courageous as a Cuban resistance leader. The ending is a bit abrupt and weak though, and I probably would have preferred one of the two alternate endings featured in the laser disc supplement.
This movie is not the best one Hitchcock has ever made I totally agree, but it does have some very good scenes. For example the opening scenes are filled with action. And I don't mean the Rambo-kills-all-evil-guys kind of action, but the ways in which the scenes are shot and thereafter edited, the camera angles, this subtle creation of 'suspense' Alfred Hitchcock is so well known for. I also remember the scene in which Juanita is killed, where again the camera angle is chosen splendidly so that her beautiful dress fills the screen. This is one of the most aesthetic killings I've ever seen. So the superior talent of the unquestionable master surely is present some times. So if one learns to value these moments and neglects the terribly eclectic plot (Hitchcock was forced to extremely cut down the movie), it's not so bad a movie after all.
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
In 1962, the highly ranked Russian intelligence officer Boris Kusenov (Per-Axel Arosenius) defects to the United States of America with his wife and his daughter under the protection of CIA agent Michael Nordstrom (John Forsythe). In Washington, Boris discloses the Russian movement in Cuba, and Nordstrom asks the French agent and his friend Andre Devereaux (Frederick Stafford) to get further documents from the Cuban leader Rico Parra (John Vernon) using his anti-American corrupt secretary Luis Uribe (Don Randolph). Then Devereaux travels to Cuba to get additional evidences of the Cuban Missiles with his mistress Juanita de Cordoba (Karin Dor). When Devereaux returns, he receives orders from the French government to return to France to explain his participation in Cuba. However Nordstrom schedules a meeting of Devereaux with Boris and the ex-KGB official tells him about Topaz, the codename for a group of French officials in high circles who work for the Soviet Union. Further, he tells that the French NATO representative Henri Jarre (Philippe Noiret) is the second in the chain of command of the spy ring Topaz, leaking classified information to the soviets, and the head of spies in known only by the codename of Columbine. Devereaux realizes that he can not reveal the truth before finding who the traitor is.
The dated "Topaz" is one of the weakest Hitchcock's films. The story, based on a true event (the Cuban Missile Crisis), is too shallow and long. Nicole is a key character but is not well-developed. Further, it is naive the explanation of friendship between Andre Devereaux and Michael Nordstrom to make the first to get entwined in the situation with Cubans and his government. This time, the cameo of Alfred Hitchcock is in the airport in New York, when he arrives in a wheelchair and walks under the United Air Lines to Planes plate while Nicole and Andre are welcoming Michele and her husband François Picard. My vote is six.
I was doing my own little Hitchcock festival with 6-8 DVDs from my local video store. This was the last one chronologically and the last one I watched. I read Leonard Maltin's three star review and some of the reviews from this site and decided to view it with an open mind. It didn't help.
This film is just awful. It's not just second-rate Hitch that is still better than anything anybody else could do. Many, many directors have made better films than this. And it's not an intended departure from the thriller genre for a `Spy That Came in From the Cold' type film: It can't hold a candle to that. It has the memorable shot of Karin Dor's death and that's about it in two and half hours. Maltin calls it a `European Film' that Americans aren't used to. I've seen many European films that were much better than this. Importing European actors, (and mating them with a truckload of television's `usual suspects'), does not make this a European film.
It just meanders along slowly, the plot taking not such much twists as changes of venue. Characters and settings move in and out without leaving much of an impression. Actually, the film is three films in one- the Washington-New York one that is promising but ends before it can deliver anything , the Cuban one which is the best of the three without being truly memorable and the Paris one, which is a total snooze. There are three alternative endings- a duel, a suicide and two guys waiving at each other at an airport. None of them are any good at all.
I don't expect Hitchcock to keep remaking `The 39 Steps' over and over again but this is not so much of a departure as an abdication. He wasn't trying to do something new. It was just an assignment that he quickly tired of and I did, too.
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 finish.
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.