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Topaz (1969)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

 Look at all the Hitchcock fans fleeing the theater en masse!
Look at all the Hitchcock fans fleeing the theater en masse!

Genre: Crime Thriller Drama

Starring: Frederick Stafford (The Battle of El Alamein), Dany Robin

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo; Psycho)

Overview: A French ambassador finds himself embroiled into Russian-American Cold War politics. With threats of double agents and Cuban missiles pointed at America, those politics may become all too deadly.

Performance:

I will admit I dreaded writing this review for so long that I think I blocked out most of it. Frenchmen speaking English with French accents bug me, that's my cross to bear. Black spies so super-hip that they border on the 'sploitation cool, but not on purpose, they kick ass. This movie should have been about him. The best roles in this are the tertiary little guys. Why God? Why?! Ambassadors turn out to be boring people, and their wives too whiney for their own good.
Rating: 6

Cinematography:

Again I'm trying to think of unprofessional or ultra-bland moments. None. Now I'm trying to think of interesting and cool moments: the black guy (below) trying to sneak off with some top secret documents. That scene was great, full of suspense and intrigue! Then there's... er... yeah.
Rating: 6

Script:

The best dialogue took place during the ten minute scene (again, below) where there was no speaking. Ouch. It's not like the dialogue didn't serve to explain essential elements or carry a hefty weight of character behind them, but talk about uninspired. Why bother picking up something like this? How does it work? Hitchcock snaps his fingers and says, 'bring me five political intrigue scripts!' then blindfolds himself and pins a contract on one? ICK.
Rating: 6

Plot:

Do you know how hard it is to write a thrilling and exciting Overview for a movie full of old men talking shop in back rooms? Political thrillers bore me, turns out. They aren't exciting. Bond is interesting, and Syriana was great, but when you have Cuban missile crises AND people playing both sides of the espionage coin, why on earth would I want to explore a disgruntled ambassador's wife thinking about leaving her husband? Why do I care about whether or not he's cheating on her? Why did you waste my time with minutia when you could have been focussing on global politics? Who planned this spin on the story?!
Rating: 6

Mood:

I think I'm sick of writing this. I'm just glad some Cubans got beat within an inch of their life, it makes for added realism.
Rating: 5

 "Ok now, give me dictatorial! Yes! yes! now anti-capitalist. PERFECT!"
"Ok now, give me dictatorial! Yes! yes! now anti-capitalist. PERFECT!"

Overall Rating: 58% (Cubic Zirconia)
Aftertaste:

For as exciting as this was, it's not a memorable film at all. It smacks of decent parts of The Man Who Knew Too Much in its political intrigue (both versions, meaning he's done this all too often, now move on) but there were moments of real boredom, entire scenes that could have been cut or shortened, or altered. Even Liam, my primary source of Hitchcockian praise, of dissent when I don't praise, and forgiveness at this man's craft... even Liam hated this. I like when he agrees with me. It makes me realize we have different tastes far too often.

Yawn.

| | | | |

Yeah, this film is a bit of a disaster. It's a film made by a broken man. Hitchock wanted to make an ultra-violent, ultra sexual and experimental flick about a serial killer that was tentatively titled "kaleidoscope". Unfortunately, Universal killed the project because they didn't feel it would be what the public had come to expect as a "Hitchock Picture". He was quite devastated by that, and looked around for something to film until he finally accepted Topaz - which Universal very much wanted him to do.

What drives me crazy about Topaz, and Torn Curtain for that matter, is that Hitchock makes mistakes that he never would have earlier in his career. He went on record to say that he doesn't go in for overly political movies (Even in his world war II spy movies, the films were very much about the spies themselves with politics playing an obscure roll in the background.) A few years earlier he never would have even considered filming these stories. He also said earlier how he hated American movies set in foriegn countries where everyone is speaking English to each other.

There are, however, a few moments in this film that save it from being a total ordeal to watch. The opening crane shot of the Russians escaping the embassy in fantastic - truly the mark of a master. The next ten minutes or so in the china factory are also great, and show that technically Hitchock still had it in him to do great work. I also really liked Juanita's death - her dress unfurling like that.

But the story is just shite. Really, really cheezy. I mean, they named the Cuban temptress 'Juanita'???? Are they f-ing kidding us? All she needed was to walk around with a Rose in her hair doing the tango...

Incidentally, I take it you saw the DVD version with the Airport ending? You know that this film has three different endings, right?

Liam 


I've been wracking my brain... I don't remember how it ended. Wow memorable.

Maybe the airport, I'm really not sure, it sounds right though. Ugh!

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