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Criterion Collection: Foreign Correspondent [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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The first of Alfred Hitchcock's World War II features, Foreign Correspondent was completed in 1940, as the European war was only beginning to erupt across national borders. Its titular hero, Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea), is an American crime reporter dispatched by his New York publisher to put a fresh spin on the drowsy dispatches emanating from overseas, his nose for a good story (and, of course, some fortuitous timing) promptly leading him to the "crime" of fascism and Nazi Germany's designs on European conquest.
In attempting to learn more about a seemingly noble peace effort, Jones (who's been saddled with the dubious nom de plume Hadley Haverstock) walks into the middle of an assassination, uncovers a spy ring, and, not entirely coincidentally, falls in love--a pattern familiar to admirers of Hitchcock's espionage thrillers, of which this is a thoroughly entertaining example. McCrea's hardy Yankee charms are neatly contrasted with the droll English charm of colleague George Sanders; Herbert Marshall provides a plummy variation on the requisite, ambiguous "good-or-is-he-really-bad" guy; Laraine Day affords a lovely heroine; and Robert Benchley (who contributed to the script) pops up, albeit too briefly, for comic relief.
As good as the cast is, however, it's Hitchcock's staging of key action sequences that makes Foreign Correspondent a textbook example of the director's visual energy: an assassin's escape through a rain-soaked crowd is registered by rippling umbrellas, a nest of spies is detected by the improbable direction of a windmill's spinning sails and Jones's nocturnal flight across a pitched city rooftop produces its own contextual comment when broken neon tubes convert the Hotel Europe into "Hot Europe". --Sam Sutherland
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Top Customer Reviews
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?
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Alfred Hitchcock's second American made film and his second of 1940, Foreign Correspondent is heavily influenced by the outbreak of World War Two. Read morePublished 6 months ago by D J F
Released in 1940 this Hitchcock film was full of rhetoric for the American market, the Criterion release is lovely to look at and is full of informative extras.Published 14 months ago by N. M. Fletcher
Very good but of its time and not in the same class of The Birds etc.Published 15 months ago by richard williams