This is the master at his most characteristic, if not quite on his best form. A hugely enjoyable propaganda romp with first rate performances all round (take note of Robert Benchley and Edmund Gwenn in minor roles). The film is a model of economy and for those looking for Hitchcock's visual 'touches' we have the assasin fleeing through a crowd of umbrellas, to quote only the most memorable (and in the opening credits, the world becomes an American newspaper building). The plot is poppycock of course, but so what.
The feel, I think is closer to the earlier British films than some of his other Hollywood movies, perhaps because it was propaganda. The rousing speech at the end has obviously lost something over the years but it was there to do a job. Lovely.
The film looks good on DVD, but why no extras?
on 17 August 2014
Ignorant American reporter Joel McCrea (John Jones) is given the pseudonym Huntley Haverstock and sent on a mission to Amsterdam to get a story about politician Albert Bassermann (Van Meer) and obtain some news about the impending war in Europe. Well, he certainly gets involved. Can he live to tell what he knows?
The film is a little too long, and the first half an hour is pretty boring. We then get some tense scenes, starting with a shooting. At last, some suspense. Unfortunately, the realism of the film is sloppy at this point. For example the victim's killer would have been caught about 20 times over. Also, the killer's getaway car would not just have disappeared like that on a large empty road, given that the pursuers had the car in sight. Another instance of stupidity occurs at this point in that the bad guys don't seem to be looking out for the car that has been chasing them. These villains are cretinously stupid not to have someone pick up that McCrea is snooping around the windmill. He stands out like a sore thumb.
Another memorable section sees hitman Edmund Gwenn (Rowley) bide his time and attempt his murderous instructions on McCrea. He has a couple of goes. And while these are suspenseful, Gwenn plays for comedy so it's never quite effective. And that's a problem with this film, there is far too much light-heartedness (eg, the Latvian bloke) which takes away any real danger.
George Sanders (ffolliott) turns up after the first boring half an hour that wasn't necessary and immediately becomes the best of the cast. In fact, the lead man McCrea completely disappears from the proceedings after about two thirds of the film and we follow Sanders as he unravels and solves the whole mystery. By himself. McCrea wasn't needed - Sanders even already knew about wealthy aristocratic Herbert Marshall (Fisher).
The film does have two other memorable sequences. The first is the sea of umbrellas as the assassin makes his getaway - very creative. The other is what elevates this film to the score I have given it - namely, the whole plane crash episode. I found this particularly eerie given the current explanation of what happened to that Air Malaysia plane recently. The one that just disappeared. There is real footage of the view that the pilots would have had as the plane dives towards the sea. We then get the water pouring in and a frightening aftermath. Maybe the passengers were already dead come the impact in the real life situation. Still, it made me think and go all sombre about it.
Unfortunately, this film lacks something. Oh yeah, Hitchcock is easy to spot in this one, so keep an eye out near the beginning.
on 28 April 2003
The titles of the new Universal Hitchcock edition are very cheap, and evidently the films are not remastered in any way. Some titles, such as 'Suspicion', suffer terribly, others, like this 'Foreign Correspondent', were transferred from serviceable prints, and are therefore wonderful to watch.
'Correspondent' belongs up there among the Hitchcock greats, one of the most virtuosic of cinematographic orchestrations, just watch the long, infernally exciting sequence when the plane is shot down and dives into the sea - riveting! The scenes in the Dutch windmill are vintage Hitchcock, and Joel McCrea proves to be one of the master's most personable of heroes.
The script is wonderful, and one readily 'forgives' the patriotic schmaltz of the finishing line, when McCrea broadcasts his impressions of wartime Europe, as the blitz of London sets in and all lights go out. "Hang on to your lights", he implores his countrymen. "They are the only lights left in the world". Maybe George W. Bush should be persuaded not to watch so many films!
Anyway, this one is a safe buy.
So do it!
"Foreign Correspondent" (1940) was Alfred Hitchcock's second American film after the fabulous "Rebecca" (1940) and what film it is. It got everything you need for a thriller: Newspaper reporters; espionage; traitors; car chases; plane crashes; sea rescues, romance; war; assassinations; political conspiracies and bell towers, oh and let's not forget windmills. Not only that but cinematography by none other than Rudolph Mate whom serious cinema buffs know as the cinematographer of films like the sublime "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (Dreyer,1928), "Vampyr" (Dreyer,1930); Dodworth (Wyler,1936); Stella Dallas (Vidor,1937) and "To Be Or Not To Be" (Lubitsch,1942) all of which are regarded as classics. "Foreign Correspondent" also has some fine energetic performances from Joel McCrea (Sullivan's Travels, 1941; The Palm Beach Story,1942) and Laraine Day as well as supporting cast of Herbert Marshall, George Sanders and Albert Basserman. The special effects are just remarkable especially the scene at sea which is just impossible to believe was shot in a MGM studio. "Foreign Correspondent" is a fan favourite and without a doubt a thriller masterpiece even German Propaganda minister Goebbels refered to it as "A masterpiece of propaganda, a first-class production". "Foreign Correspondent" opened at cinemas August 16, 1940 just three weeks before the start of the Blitz which is depicted at the end of the film.
The DVD transfer is of a good standard although the soundtrack could be better. There are no extras.
Hitchcocks second American foray is a romping flag waver echoing themes presented in the 39steps and subesquently followed in Saboteur. The bones of the tale are wrapped in a story about an American reporter sent to cover political upheaval in Europe. He sets about shadowing the leader of a political peace movement and soon discovers it to be a hotbed of fifth columnists hell bent on extracting secret battle plans from the ailing leader. Hitchcocks maguffin is there in that the battle plans (a clause in a treaty) are alluded to but never revealed to the viewer. Trademark cinematography and technical quirks include a chase through a sea of umbarellas and sweeping shots which take the viewer from the skies and into an aeroplane window. This technical tradecraft freshens the familiar feeling created by the story; you know you're watching Hitchcock. Although similar in theme, the tale is less linear than either 39Steps or Saboteur and it feels a tiny bit convolouted because of it. There's more humour in this, there are comedic touches on the sidelines and almost whole characters are portrayed for comic effect. It's part adventure, part propaganda and the plane crash is well handled and exciting considering the era. This has many merits and I really enjoyed it.
This 1940 film from Alfred Hitchcock is another in his (relatively) long line of chase/spying storylines, and, being made at the onset of WWII, also contains the perhaps obligatory messages of wartime defiance. At around two hours duration, Foreign Correspondent packs in many narrative twists and brilliant set-piece scenes, but, for me, probably has around 20 minutes of 'flab' in it (occurring predominantly during the third quarter of the film). This leads me to rank the film somewhere below Hitch's classics of this genre, The 39 Steps and North By North West, and more on a par with a film like Saboteur (and this is nothing to be ashamed of, I might add).
In fact, rather like Hitch's other chase films, Foreign Correspondent features much comic content, which is clearly signposted to the audience via Alfred Newman's jaunty musical theme accompanying the opening credits. The film's central premise is that of the US' need to gain a better appreciation of the imminence (or otherwise) of war, and to this end New York newspaper The Morning Globe sends reporter Johnny Jones, who assumes the name Huntley Haverstock (Joel McCrae) to London to do some digging. On meeting up with the leading lights in a peace-seeking organisation (The Universal Peace Party), namely Dutchman Van Meer (Albert Bassermann) and Englishman Stephen Fisher (played with brilliant suaveness by Herbert Marshall), there follows (as we might expect) a tale of underhand dealings, double-crossing and romance (the latter generated as Haverstock meets up with Carol (Laraine Day), the daughter of Fisher). Hitchcock makes the serious point here that organisations like the UPP were essentially (unintentional) collaborators, full of bumbling individuals (described in the film as 'well-meaning amateurs', in a phrase similar to that used in The Remains Of The Day).
There are a number of trademark Hitch sequences which maintain audience attention, none more thrilling than that which takes place at an Amsterdam peace conference, as, set on a large staircase outside a major public building (in this respect rather like the scene from Battleship Potemkin) in the pouring rain, Haverstock witnesses the apparent shooting of Van Meer, and is then engaged in a spectacular car chase, culminating in a brilliantly inventive scene set around a windmill (in parts reminiscent of my favourite ever Hitch scene - the crop duster from North By North West). I guess the other standout sequence (certainly from a technical perspective) is the plane crash towards the end of the film - Hitch was apparently particularly proud of this as the shot of the plane hitting the water was achieved in a single take.
Acting-wise, Foreign Correspondent is something of a mixed bag, being in my book similar to other Hitch films where his supporting players outshine his leads. Joel McCrea and Laraine Day are, for me, only workmanlike in quality (Hitch wanted Gary Cooper for the McCrea role). On the other hand, Herbert Marshall is outstanding as the duplicitous father Fisher, torn between loyalty to his nefarious politics and loyalty to his daughter, George Sanders has never been better in his archetypal Englishman role as journalist Scott ffoliott (but also with the film's killer funny lines), Robert Benchley is very good as the eccentric, stuttering Stebbins, Eduardo Ciannelli is perfectly cast as the steely cold and evil Krug, and even Edmund Gwenn is (despite being an exaggerated caricature) very amusing as Rowley, the chirpy cockney ('rub-a-dub') private detective, employed to knock off Haverstock.
My only other criticism of the film (which, of course, applies to many films made in this era) is that it does rather overdo the jingoism (particularly during the film's closing speech). Nevertheless, another Hitch film well worth catching.
on 26 October 2012
Reading some of the reviews regarding the region 2 release of "Foreign Correspondent" I just want to add a comment or two of my own.
Although the obvious weakness compared to region 1 is that there are no bonus features, which is a shame, I would like to put on record that there is nothing wrong with the sound or picture quality. Nearly ALL dvd releases could be improved upon quality wise - witness (or maybe you shouldn't) the poor presentation of the Network releases of James Whales' 1932 film "The Old Dark House" and Bryan Forbes' 1964 "Seance On A Wet Afternoon." Both of these films suffered, especially lack of decent sound.
I'm not claiming that "Correspondent" to be perfect, but unlike the two films aforestated, I don't have to crank the volume up to obtain reasonable sound. The picture is better and clearer as well.
Great film (again) from Hitchcock, glad to have it in my collection.
"Foreign Correspondent" was made over 65 years ago and ,not surprisingly , it looks a little dated now. The DVD does not appear to have been remastered in any way and the monochrome picture is washed-out looking and too bright.However ,the film itself is surprisingly good. It is a spy thriller set on the eve of the outbreak of WW2 in Europe. An intrepid reporter from a New York newspaper uncovers a European spy ring, whose motives are never quite revealed (a bit like "The Man Who Knew Too Much" in that respect) and many quintessentially Hitchcockian scenes follow as the "Foreign Correspondent" , played by Joel McCrea ,survives several extremely dangerous situations. The best of these are the windmill scene in Holland, the tower scene at Westminster Cathedral and the stunning finale on the clipper plane to America. The acting is quite good in this film and despite the sometimes stilted dialogue and archaic plummy English accents, "Foreign Correspondent" is an enjoyable film to watch.
on 27 July 2015
When people talk or write of the best Hitchcock movies Foreign Correspondent is often overlooked but the first time I saw it I was blown away. Especially as I had just traveled up in the lift the the top of Westminster Cathedral, not to be confused with Westminster Abbey, which plays a very suspenseful part in the story. Old, black and white, made in the early days of World War Two, it was a propaganda battle cry to the Americans to join in.It has a gripping story but also a sense of humour. The plane crash sequence is still haunting. Enjoy.
on 19 April 2003
This 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film has everything you’d expect: Romance, spies, kidknapping, murder, fine acting and great special effects (for the year it was made).
However, this DVD edition has NOTHING in the way of any special features, trailers, or even subtitles. This is not what DVD’s were made for.
No doubt our Region 1 friends will eventually get the attention this movie deserves.