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Topaz 1969

A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring...

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Imdb rating: 6.3

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Topaz (Alfred Hitchcock, 1969) 8/10:fresh:



Regarded as one of the worst movies that Hitchcock ever made, one has to wonder if this much maligned film has only taken such a beating because viewers compare it his more acclaimed films. No, this fisn't his best film, but it certainly isn't a failure, either. This is a globe-trotting espionage thriller that features a cast of mostly lesser-knowns.

During the Cold War, a high ranking Russian official named Boris Kusenov abandons his government and defects to the United States after the lives of his family are threatened. Once in America, he is questioned, but seems less than willing to cooperate in answering about a leak in the French government named "Topaz." Agent Michael Nordstrom (John Forsythe) discovers a secret agreement between the Russians and Cubans, and enlists the help of his friend, French agent Andre Devereaux (Frederick Stafford). Devereaux on a trip to New York with his family is asked to retrieve information involving top secret documents. Knowing that the secretary of the visiting Cuban official Rico Parra (John Vernon) can be bought off, Devereaux in turn enlists the help of his friend Philippe Dubois (Roscoe Lee Browne) to deliver the money and take pictures of the documents. After a not-so-smooth, but effective job by Dubois, Devereaux goes off to Cuba where he meets his mistress Juanita de Cordoba (Karin Dor) -- a woman who is heading an underground movement against the Cuban government. Juanita is also romantically involved with Parra in effort to access to important information. When workers for Juanita are captured and torchered, they sqeal, and Juanita is killed just minutes after Devereaux has left to go back to Washington. Upon Devereaux's return, he is greeted with information regarding "Topaz" that involves high ranking government officials in France, in particular Henri Jarre (Philippe Noiret). Devereaux heads to France to uncover the truth, but finds that the problem just might run deeper than Jarre.

Hitchcock's direction is terrific. This movie contains plenty of trademark Hitch moments. This movie also happens to contain the best shot of any of Hitchcock's movies (Juanita's purple dress flowing out across the floor as the life drains from her body.)

The performances are also worthy of praise. Some of the accents seem to come in and out, but that wasn't too distracting. Roscoe Lee Browne, however, should be singled out. He provides a firecracker performance in his small role.

Recommended to those who are fans of spy thrillers and Hitchcock, but don't go in expecting to see his best work. It is certainly a worthwhile effort from the latter stages of the "master of suspense's" career.
Gilda, unrealistic acting, story seems more like a novel that didn't translate too well on the screen, still fairly interesting film noir. Rita Hayworth = not hot.
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I'd like to rate a spanish films called Piedras(2001) I just watched. It's again one of those that RT don't recognize. Anyhow, first half 6
alfred hitchcock is probably my favorite director, and this is one of my least favorite films of his. it's not bad but lacks that hitchcock touch, mainly due to the cast. uysually hitchcocks characters are colorful, or interesting, perhaps eccentric or fascinating. no one stands out in this bland cast. the story is pretty good, it held my interest, but just never rises above so so.
In preparation of the upcoming "essential hitchcock" series at Film Forum I've been immersing myself in the "Unessential Hitchcock;" the films not included in the Film Forum selection.

I began with Topaz. Despite two marvelous set pieces the film is mostly flat. One wonders if Hitchcock was trying to invert the themes of North By Northwest. Instead of the innocent man plunged down the rabbit hole of international espionage, Topaz features the banal lives of international spies as they deal with the daily routine of being a spy, managing a marriage, family, mistress, etc. If this was Hitchcock's intention, there was a good movie to be made from the material. However, it is only in the typical Hitchcockian that the film comes alive. The hotel Theresa sequence and the silent opening show Hitchcock's brilliance but at this point in his career they are merely exercises, echoes of earlier creative bursts. I was hoping Leonard Maltin's "appreciation" of the film (a bonus feature on the DVD) would open the film up and encourage another viewing. Instead it was more a of an apology that tells us more of Maltin's blind love of Hitchcock then adding to the film itself.

Under Capricorn is, so far as I've seen, the lowest ebb of the Hitchcock ouvre. A faded xerox of Wuthering Heights or Rebecca this is an unsalvagable formulaic mess. Again, even Hitch seems bored with the material. His experiments with long takes seem too be the only way he could manage to maintain an interest in filming this melodrama. One could complain about Michael Wilding's wet fish charisma, the hideous sets, inapropraite music, or lack of proper accents but the less said about this film the better.

Next up was a Stage Fright/The Trouble With Harry double feature. While both films drag at times, they were a pleasant surprise after the earlier dogs. Hitchcock coaxed amazing performances out of the cast of Harry, especially Shirley McClaine and Edmund Gwenn. Harry is a light film but an interesting one. In all these films Hitchcock seems to be subverting the idea that the spine of a film is its story. While Capricorn and Topaz suffer, Harry's lack of plot is a success. It focuses our attention on the characters, their relationships, the beauty of autumnal Vermont and the sounds of Bernard Hermann's haunting and humorous score (his first for Hitchcock).

Stage Fright is an odd choice to consider unessential. Much has been said about the false flashback during the first 15 minutes of the movie. While it alienated audiences in the 50s, 40-50 years later it would be cutting edge mystery filmmaking (see The Usual Suspects). More interesting are the similarities to later Hitchcock. It deals with classic Htichcockian issues of identity, contrasts the motherly with the "feminine mystique," and plays on audience identification. Dietrich is perfect and her brief monologue at the end is endlessly watchable. Why Hitch named his daughters character Chubby Bannister is anyone's guess.

Family Plot is another 'light' film exercising previous Hitchcock themes with new actors and settings. While watching it, the pieces play nicely, but when it's all over you're left a little empty. Again Hitch gets great performances and stages beautiful suspense sequences but the overall emotional impact of his "essential" works is lacking.

Hitchcock's wost film. A complete bore.

TOPAZ
(ALFRED HITCHCOCK, 1969)
PG
2 HOURS 23 MINUTES


In 1962, the United States has two powerful enemies, the Russians and the Cubans. When rumors circulate that Russia and Cuba may be working together in hopes of attacking the United States, the US governments scrambles for information. The US cannot get any of their spies into Cuba, so they manipulate a relationship with a French spy. The French spy uncovers the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as Russia's infiltration into French intelligence.

"We're a small country now; but soon, very soon, we will not be afraid of anyone."

Alfred Hitchcock, director of Rope, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, Torn Curtain, Rebecca, To Catch a Thief, Suspicion, Psycho, The Birds, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, Rear Window, Notorious, Frenzy, Marnie, Shadow of a Doubt, and Foreign Correspondent, delivers Topaz. The storyline for this film is interesting, but not as good as most Hitchcock films. Hitchcock did not approve of the original script for this film, so he brought in Sam Taylor (writer of Vertigo) to write a new script. The acting in this film is solid, but there is no "outstanding" performance worth referencing.

"Let him show some respect."
"Respect is something he rarely shows."

The flower carving scene, the neutral conversation, the ebony magazine interview, the female spy assistance getting shot in Cuba, the "journey" reference, the death of the Cuban "princess," and the discovery of the person behind the Topaz mission were amongst the better portions of the film.

"If you do him any harm, I will raise such hell. And you know I will."

Topaz is a film that Universal Pictures forced upon Hitchcock. Hitchcock experimented with color schemes and different filming techniques in the creation of this film. I do not believe his heart was fully into the creation of this movie. He also did not have a spectacular actor who took the lead role and mesmerized the audience. John Forsythe (Charlie from the original Charlie's Angels) was a nice surprise as a supporting character. Overall, this is a forgettable Hitchcock film.

"If anything goes wrong, it's your operation."

Grade: C

Topaz (1969)

This is often considered one of Hitchcock's weakest movies and his it was also his biggest commercial box office failure. I think it's much better than many give it credit for except that it has probably the most unsatisfying ending out of all of Hitchcock's major movies. I actually really enjoyed it and thought it was almost like a poor man's James Bond movie without the action, but the weak ending really hurt my enjoyment of it.
(*** 1/2): :up:

A very good thriller. Great acting, direction and cinematography. One of Hitch's best.
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