4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Some great filmmaking, but not a great film,
This review is from: Topaz [DVD] (DVD)
Topaz is widely regarded as one of Hitchcock's worst films, but while certainly problematic there's still a lot to admire in this spy thriller set against the Cuban missile crisis. Unfortunately, rather than the original theatrical version (to date only released on laserdisc in the 90s and on Blu-ray in Germany), the version on video and this DVD is of a longer preview version before the film was trimmed down to size. For the most part the `additions' are fairly minor - the Russian defector being coerced to give information, a party scene, possibly a longer version of a scene between Frederick Stafford and Dany Robin - although the only one that makes a real difference is the addition of the best of the three alternate endings (of one character wryly waving goodbye at the airport having got away with it). Unfortunately, aside from drawing matters out even more, it still has the same structural problems as before: the plot is all over the place, and the film is really over once it leaves Cuba, seeming to spend an inordinate amount of time tying up loose ends although in reality introducing a new plot that should have been there from the very beginning. And there's a lot of Hitchcock's technical laziness - Frederick Stafford doesn't convince in his last, poorly staged scenes, and Hitchcock doesn't help him, while the photograph on his desk is shoddy enough to be a kindergarten cut-and-paste for show-and-tell. Yet it's still an intriguing film despite its flaws, with a few strikingly memorable scenes, especially those played without dialogue - watching the New York hotel from the florist's shop, the dead woman's dress unfolding like the petals of a flower as she falls to the ground, the grim almost-silent tableaux where a torture victim whispers a name. It's just a shame that the terrific filmmaking of key scenes in the first two thirds evaporates before the end, but there are certainly worse Hitchcock films out there.
Universal's DVD offers a fine package of extras - a documentary, three alternative endings (one of them, involving a duel in a football stadium, plain absurd), storyboards, production photographs and theatrical trailer.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Apr 2015 09:41:17 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Apr 2015 09:41:30 BDT
Trevor, I would be interested to know what you regard to be a worse Hitchcock film than this? Personally, I think only Marnie did less for me (though admittedly, I haven't seen many of his more obscure British films like Rich and Strange or Waltzes from Vienna).
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2015 14:21:33 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Apr 2015 14:25:34 BDT
While there are a number of Hitchcock films that do nothing for me but which I don't regard as bad - Rear Window, Notorious, Shadow of a Doubt - and I find Waltzes from Vienna more flat than outright bad, I'd have no hesitation in nominating Downhill [ 1927 ] Hitchcock Classic Collection, which is a real stinker.
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2015 18:41:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Apr 2015 18:42:03 BDT
Interesting. Personally, I believe Vertigo to be one of the most overrated films in history. It is a flabby, illogical non-thriller that, because it showcases the director's infamous fetishes more than just about anything else he made, has somehow caused thousands of film critics to ignore the fact that the plot makes absolutely no sense at all. Greatest movie ever? Balls. I wouldn't even put it in Hitchcock's top ten.
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2015 20:01:13 BDT
Ironically that's how I feel about Rear Window: as a collection of his neuroses and obsessions it's a critic's goldmine, but it's self-conscious, lethargic and flabby in the extreme. I wouldn't even have it in my collection if it didn't come as part of the boxed set.
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2015 20:14:24 BDT
While we're at it, anyone who says either of those films contains Jimmy Stewart's best work is smoking crack too. Nothing he did with Hitchcock even approaches his performances for Anthony Mann.
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2015 21:13:05 BDT
As you know, Mann's my favourite director so you'll get no argument there.
In reply to an earlier post on 8 Apr 2015 07:41:43 BDT
Mind you, Stewart did far worse too. I happen to think he's terrible, a caricature of his own persona in fact, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
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