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Topaz (1969).

September 5, 2008

The Scoop:
Much like he did with “Saboteur” years earlier, Alfred Hitchcock eschewed big box office stars to make this Cold War espionage tale. A pair of spies — one American (John Forsythe) and one French (Frederick Stafford) — team up to hunt for Soviet nuclear secrets in Havana during the Cuban Missle Crisis. The film is based on a Leon Uris novel (adapted by Samuel A. Taylor), which in turn was based on a true story.

Thanks to the changing times, Hitch was able to take advantage of Hollywood’s looser restriction on sexual content, being more explicit with many of the things he only hinted at in his earlier films. And there are some good sequences detailing the nuts-and-bolts of espionage work. But beyond that “Topaz” cannot quite be considered the highlight of his late (post-“The Birds”) period, and it is certainly not on par with his classics. This film is a must only for Hitchcock completists and Cold War spy buffs — for everyone else, this is strictly optional.

Best Bit:
The cinematography during Juanita’s death scene.

Side Note:
Hitchcock, a notorious perfectionist about his preproduction, continued to fuss with the script and storyboards during shooting. In fact, he shot three different endings, the only time he ever did so.

Companion Viewing:
“Saboteur” (1942) and “Torn Curtain” (1966).

Associated Content.
This Distracted Globe.

Take a Look:
I love the vintage “swinging” look of this trailer:

We found Hitch’s cameo, so you don’t have to:

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