Ruth from Flixchatter is joining us today for our Alfred Hitchcock blogathon, having picked a movie she had never seen before. Ruth runs a fantastic blog filled with awesome content, interesting questions, movie reviews, and an array of other material. I am sure you all follow Ruth as is, but those who do not, hop on over there and get involved! Ruth, thank you very much for taking the time to venture into unknown territory for us!
This review is part of this Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Rob & Zoë.
An American scientist who pretends to defect to East Germany as part of a clandestine mission to obtain the solution of a formula resin and escape back to the United States.
I’ve been planning on catching up on a bunch of Alfred Hitchcock films. Now this one is perhaps one of his lesser-known films, or perhaps it’s not as popular as frankly, it’s just not a good film. The premise is actually intriguing, as I’m a big fan of spy thrillers, plus it has two famous classic actors: Paul Newman + Julie Andrews.
Well, as it turns out, the film started out slow and it never really picked up. My first issue is the casting of Julie Andrews. For some reason she just isn’t convincing in this role and there’s no chemistry between her and Newman, despite the film opening of the two making out in bed. Andrews looks so much like Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music that it’s somewhat distracting to me, I kept expecting her to burst into song or something. Newman fares a bit better but he’s not entirely convincing as a scientist either.
But the bigger issue is the lack of suspense, which in a Hitchcock film is a major no-no. There’s one fight scene that appeared in a lot of the film’s promotion, that is between Newman’s character and an East Germany officer assigned to track him down. The scene happens at a farm and there’s even a knife scene reminiscent to Hitchcock’s most famous film Psycho (1960) but again, totally devoid of suspense to me. In fact, the whole fight scene seems to have been choreographed in such an awkward manner that it made me laugh.
To top it off, the two main characters aren’t that well-developed that it’s hard to feel anything for any of them. I was a bit intrigued by Tamara Toumanova’s casting as the ballerina. I knew that actress from seeing clips of her in Days of Glory (1944) which was Gregory Peck’s debut film. She looks pretty creepy in this one and that theater scene is perhaps one of the film’s most interesting but also weird scenes. Other than that, none of the cast really make an impression to me.
Interesting that this is Hitchcock’s 50th film, and audiences were highly anticipating this, especially since the spy genre was quite popular thanks to the release of James Bond’s Dr. No in 1962. I think the Cold War theme and story has a lot of potential but the execution is just meh. I wouldn’t call it horrible per se, but a huge disappointment considering the reputation of its filmmaker. Well reportedly the director himself didn’t enjoy making this, and clearly it showed. According to IMDb trivia, Alfred Hitchcock was so unhappy with this film that he decided to not to make a trailer with his appearance in it.
I suppose even one of the industry’s greatest auteur can’t hit it out of the park every time. I’m still looking forward to his other, hopefully better films I’ve missed out on.