Ripping Yawn

I had got it into my head that Alfred Hitchcock stopped making films after Marnie. Did the poisonous combination of Tippi Hendren and Connery push him over the edge? Marnie is pretty average, punishingly overlong, it’s reputation enhanced simply by association with its director’s  enduring fame. It has a rather unpalatable misogynistic tone at times, and the special effects are comic rather than haunting as they are in, say, La Donna Che Visse Due Volte (The Woman Who Lived Twice, in case you want to know what happens before seeing the film).

But actually Hitch just made a bunch of really forgettable movies after that. The first in this descending sequence (his 50th) is Torn Curtain. from hitchcock.tvThis movie is largely set in 1960s East Germany, so has more resonance for me now than it once would have had. It’s a Cold War nuclear secret caper, with Paul Newman perhaps the most unlikely Kern-Physiker of all time. Julie Andrews is his assistant-stroke-fiancé and they have some classic Hitch clinches. The tension is overdone at times, especially in an unexpectedly mountainous bus ride from Leipzig to Berlin that recalls The Wages of Fear. Propagandistic elements are minimal but occasional amateurishness of the communists and the random machine-gunning of the public on Berlin streets makes it clear whose side we should be on. Ironically, the latter event is more likely to happen in the USA, although it would not normally be carried out by the military police.

Early scenes with Herr Gromek – Newman’s Stasi minder who longs for 88th St, New York – are interesting, but the better shots simply make you long instead for Hitchcock’s classics. Misfires from the master are still watchable, but Torn Curtain is for diehards only.

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