35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Of Hitchcock's Best
"Foreign Correspondent" was Alfred Hitchcock's second American feature made in 1940, the same year as his first feature "Rebecca", and surprisingly both were up for "best picture". In fact "Foreign Correspodent" was nominated for 6 Oscars. But even so, the movie is rarely regarded as one of Hitchcock's best, and that's a shame...
Published on December 23, 2003 by Alex Udvary
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten gem from the master.
This spy-story runs long and sometimes you just want to fast forward to the great spectacular scenes. The second film from Hitchcock made in the states; Rebecca has a better plot and star power. Yet this six oscar nominated film does deserve a look at, especially the set pieces. There is no confrontations or suspense who is the villain, but the camera shots are worth...
Published on October 6, 2007 by M. Gamez
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Of Hitchcock's Best,
"Foreign Correspondent" was Alfred Hitchcock's second American feature made in 1940, the same year as his first feature "Rebecca", and surprisingly both were up for "best picture". In fact "Foreign Correspodent" was nominated for 6 Oscars. But even so, the movie is rarely regarded as one of Hitchcock's best, and that's a shame. "Foreign Correspondent" ranks up there with the best Hitchcock films such as "Rear Window", "Psycho", and "Vertigo". The "master of suspense" displays all the talents that have made him one of the finest film-makers of all-time (at least in my opinion).
"Foreign Correspondent" has Joel McCrea as John Jones, an American reporter sent over to Europe to cover the beginnings of WW2. And, as you can probably guess, Jones will stumble upon a big story and soon become a man who knows too much.
Van Meer, a man Jones was sent to interview (Albert Basserman, in an Oscar nominated performance) is on a council to prevent WW2, but he is soon murdered, or is he? He was the only person who knew of a secret clause that was to be written in a peace treaty.
A lot of people speak highly of the assination scene with the umbrellas, and Edmund Gwenn's scene on top of the tower. Most of you will know Gwenn as Santa Clause in "Miracle on 34th Street". But I have to admit some of my favorite scenes deal with the more comedic aspects of the film such as Robert Benchley's scenes, as an on-the-wagon reporter just yearning for one more drink, who has no idea what is going on around him. I also enjoy a scene dealing with George Sanders (Scott ffolliott) as he explains why he his name is spelled with two lower case "f's", McCrea responds with "How do you pronouce it? With a stutter?"
I've always felt Hitchcock's early work sometimes allowed the dry wit to get into the way of his movies. They could be seen as comedy\mystery movies in the vain of "The Thin Man" series. But in "Foreign Correspondent" I absolutely didn't mind. I enjoyed it greatly. Benchley was actually allowed to write his own lines and Ben Hechet, who helped co-write (he wrote the play "The Front Page", as well as two other Hitchcock movies, "Notorious" and "Spellbound") are without doubt why this movie actually does make us laugh. Benchley really is a highlight for me. Please pay attention to his dialogue. It's a shame so many people don't remember him nowadays.
And, there's more more thing I feel the need to comment on. What an amazing cast this film has. I've mentioned some of them already, McCrea, Sanders, and Benchley, but Herbert Marshall is also in this movie as Stephen Fisher, Van Meer's partner. Everyone does a wonderful job.
Bottom-line: Sadly not as popular as some of Hitchcock's other films, but, it deserves to be. It really is one of his best works. Great moments of suspense and wit.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Hitchcock With British Charm,
This fun and exciting film from Walter Wanger and Alfred Hitchcock offers romance, suspense, and a dash of patriotism for 120 minutes of sheer entertainment. A terrific cast in front of the camera and loads of talent behind it make for one of Hitchcock's best films. "Foreign Correspondent" very much has the feel of the director's best efforts across the pond, augmented by a bigger budget and better production values.
Author James Hilton and Robert Benchley contributed some dialog to the screenplay written by Charles Bennett and Joan Harrison. Music by Alfred Newman and photography from Rudolph Mate help create a mood that is suspenseful and, at times, romantic. William Cameron Menzies helped create some of the effects, adding to the suspense. A list of players that includes Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, Harry Davenport, Albert Basserman and Eduardo Ciannelli make for a topflight film.
Joel McCrea is John Jones, a crime reporter for the "New York Globe" newspaper who gets a big break when his boss Mr. Powers (Harry Davenport) picks him to be a reporter in Europe, and wants him to get the real story of a world heading for war. Powers doesn't want correspondence, but news! After changing John's bland sounding name to Huntley Haverstock, he sends him to London to cover a peace conference and get an interview with Van Meer (Albert Basserman), a key man in a treaty between the Dutch and Belgians.
By happenstance, Huntley meets Van Meer but loses track of him in short order. Van Meer then disappears, and Huntley is left holding the bag at the conference. It is there, however, that he meets the daughter of Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), Carol (Laraine Day). He is immediately taken with her and flusters her during her big speach about peace by sending notes to her table, with mesages like: "Can we have lunch?" and "Do you believe in large families?"
When they meet again, it is at the next conference in rainy Amsterdam. A man looking like Van Meer is assisinated right in front of Huntley, in Hitchcock's famous umbrella scene. Huntley, Carol, and fellow reporter Scott ffolliott (George Sanders), whose family history has taken the capitals out of his last name, chase the assasin by car with the police not far behind. Their pursuit, however, ends in a windy and lonely field full of old windmills, which look like lighthouses with big propellers.
Huntley realizes, too late, that one of the windmills is turning against the wind as a signal to the plane overhead. He sends Carol and Scott back to get the police while he investigates on his own. Some tense and exciting moments follow as Huntly very nearly gets caught by Mr. Krug (Eduardo Ciannelli) when he discovers Van Meer has been kidnapped and is being held hostage in the windmill. Espionage agents want to know a secret clause in the treaty not written down, but only in Van Meer's head. Huntly makes a daring escape, but when the police arrive only a tramp inhabits the windmill and Van Meer has been moved.
Back at Hotel Europe, Huntley must make another daring escape as the spies are onto the reporter now. Hitchcock adds a nice touch as Huntley blows out the "e" and "l" in the Hotel Europe sign as he walks the ledge outside his room; the sign now reading, "Hot Europe." One must remember this was only 1940. Huntley's sincerity about his chances of surviving the international intrigue he has thrown a monkey wrench into will win over Carol's heart and the two flee for their lives, booking passage to London by sea.
The most romantic scene in the film takes place on the rainy deck of the ship as Huntley tells Carol of his love for her and she responds in kind. Laraine Day had some nice moments in films of this era and was quite charming and very pretty in this one. She and McCrea are a nice fit and their romance has the charm of Hitchcock's British films also. The romantic innocence of booking an extra room that happens later in the film is a perfect example.
When they arrive at her father Stephen's house, Huntley discovers he is in with the spies, and must reluctantly lure Carol away so that Scott can trick Stephen into revealing where Van Meer is being detained. It backfires, of course, but Carol has realized by now that she is in love with the man who is going to help hang her father. Her father loves her dearly, despite his politics. and when the plane they are all aboard is shot down over the sea, he will scarifice himself for her happiness.
George Sanders has a rare good-guy role here and there are many memorable Hitchcock moments to this one. A patriotic call to Americans at the end, as Jones and his sweetheart, Carol, keep talking to the world over the radio while London is bombed, seems real and not hokey at all. Edmund Gwenn has a fine moment as the droll killer, Rowley, Stephen sends to get rid of Huntley. And Harry Davenport also shines as the newspaper editor who realizes the world is about to change forever.
This is great entertainment from the master, Alfred Hitchcock, and if you haven't seen this one, you're in for a real treat.
63 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You're just a wee bit unscrupulous, aren't you?",
I've always thought of myself as a Hitchcock fan, as he had the ability to tell a story through the medium of film so very well, understanding perfectly the necessary elements needed within a story to keep an audience enthralled and engaged. Sure, many may understand these necessities, but it seems few are able to develop them to the level Hitchcock did, and that's what makes much of his work so enduring, even relevant, so many years later. That said, being a self-proclaimed fan and all, I have to admit I'm a bit ashamed that it took me so long to get around to watching Foreign Correspondent (1940), as it's not only a wonderful Hitchcock feature, but a really great film in general (heck, it was nominated for like six Academy Awards, so there must be others out there who share my sentiments). The film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (some just call him Hitch, but I think it's a little disrespectful unless you knew the man personally and were friends with him...I didn't know him, so I'll always use his full name, but y'all can do whatever you like), stars Joel McCrea (The Virginian), Laraine Day (Calling Dr. Kildare), and Herbert Marshall (Duel in the Sun). Also appearing is George Sanders (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir), Albert Bassermann (nominated for one of the six Academy Awards this film received), journalist and popular humorist Robert Benchley, and Edmund Gwenn, who would later appear as Kris Kringle in the holiday staple Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
McCrea plays Johnny Jones, a crime reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper, who gets a new assignment as a foreign correspondent due the fact that the editor of the paper is tired of the regurgitated press releases his current correspondents are turning in, and also due to the fact Johnny knows little, if anything, about current international events, so hopefully he'll be more inclined to provide a fresh perspective. Given his lack of knowledge with regards to current international events one might be hesitant to accept such a position, but with the incentive of an expense account (i.e.money), Johnny dives head first into the position. Upon arriving in Europe, he's tasked to get in close with an organization touting peaceful resolutions to various European conflicts, headed by Stephen Fisher (Marshall) with his daughter Carol (Day) working by his side. Things take an unexpected turn after the assassination of a leading dignitary, and Johnny seems to be the only one who suspects there's more behind what has happened than there appears. Clinging to a meager handful of leads like a mangy mutt clings to a soup bone, Johnny begins to uncover a seemingly vast conspiracy that could affect course of history, with regards to the impending world war.
I came into this film not expecting a lot, even though it was a Hitchcock film, basically because I had heard so little about it. The cast here is incredibly talented, and is put to good use. McCrea, who would later make himself known in westerners (apparently he enjoyed those roles the most), does a wonderful job as the tenacious, very American, crime reporter, seemingly out of his league in the capacity of a foreign correspondent, dogging out various difficulties to get the story, managing to find love along the way. Day also does really well, providing more than just a shallow love interest, but a fully developed, rich and interesting character that shares a surprising amount of chemistry with McCrea. They may not be at the level of a Grant and Bergman (Spellbound), or a Stewart and Novak (Vertigo), but they provide just as genuine sense of interest as those pairings. The supporting cast, including Marshall, Sanders, Basserman, and Benchley (Benchley seemed in a rare position to create his own character, and add some really enjoyable humorous dialogue to the film after the script had been written, as usually once the script was finished, Hitchcock was usually adamant about not allowing further changes) further strengthening an already solid film. One aspect of the story I really liked was the depth of character given to the main antagonist. This role could have easily been portrayed in a more simplistic fashion, but here it's developed with intelligence and even a certain sympathetic edge. The sets are beautiful and perfectly suited for the story (the windmill scenes were especially rich and detailed). I've read where some thought the pacing was too slow, but I would describe it as deliberate (the film runs a lengthy 2 hours), as I feel Hitchcock controlled his productions very tightly, and his reasoning for the pacing and inclusion (or exclusion) of certain elements well thought out and specific, at least that's my impressions from his other films. There's just a lot going on in this film, and a number of different characters that all get their appropriate development. The tension within the film seems a bit subtler than in some of Hitchcock's other films, but it blends in very well, along with the dramatic and humorous touches. The dialogue is sharp and witty, giving the characters a very genuine feel. One of my favorite scenes is near the end, when the main protagonists are going off to catch a plane, and they're relaying all kinds of instructions to Robert Benchley's character of Stebbins (he was also a foreign correspondent working for Johnny's paper, a slightly sullen character, resigned to his position) to which Stebbins appears to be writing furiously, finally popping out a humorous quip after they're gone. All in all this is a thrilling, sophisticated, romantic, adventure-filled picture worthy of its' place among Hitchcock's more popular films.
The full screen picture, original aspect ratio 1.33:1, looks clean and sharp, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono comes through clear. Besides an original theatrical trailer, there's a thorough documentary (I think it runs about 35 minutes) titled "Personal History: Foreign Hitchcock" featuring interviews with critics, Hitchcock's daughter, and even actress Laraine Day.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars VERY EUROPEAN FLAIR TO A PATRIOTIC THRILLER,
For some reason Hitchcock's first WWII thriller, "Foreign Correspondent" (1940), never quite achieved the critical accolades or fame of say, "Notorious." This, despite the film's harrowing representations of murder and spine tingling cloak and dagger war games. It stars matinee idol, Joel McCrea as Johnny Jones, a New York reporter dispatched to Europe who inadvertently stumbles upon a troupe of fascists preparing to take over the world. After witnessing an assassination, Jones becomes embroiled in the harrowing plot of secret government codes falling into the wrong hands. Along the way, he encounters Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) whose father, Stephan (Herbert Marshall) may or may not be the lynch pin in all the espionage. Both the mood and charm of many of the film's set pieces speaks to Hitchcock's flair for European cinema. In fact, in viewing "Foreign Correspondence" today there is a decide lack of Hollywood glitz about it.
Warner's DVD transfer exhibits a balanced gray scale with deep, solid blacks and reasonably clean whites. Dirt, scratches and other age related artifacts are present but do not terribly distract. There's a complete lack of edge enhancement, pixelization and shimmering of fine details for a picture that is overall smooth and easy on the eyes. The audio is mono but very nicely cleaned up.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's what you get with the Criterion Blu-ray/DVD combo pack,
This review is from: Foreign Correspondent (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD) (Blu-ray)
I won't spend time telling you the plot of "Foreign Correspondent." Chances are, if you're here, you are already aware of the film. I will say that I've always felt it was a bit underrated. Regardless of director, it's a suspenseful and very well-made espionage thriller, one that holds up very well today (despite a few dated elements).
For fans of the film, or Hitchcock in general, the Criterion release is a cause for celebration. Although the previous Warner Bros. DVD release looked fine, it doesn't really compare to the new 2K digital restoration that has been done here. The phrase "looks like it was filmed yesterday" gets thrown around a bit too often when reviewing HD transfers of classic films, but I can't really think of a better description. The umbrella assassination scene, to pick a well-known passage from the film, is every bit as sharp and vibrant as a new movie.
Bonus features: There's a terrific (19 min.) documentary on the film's incredible special effects. You'll never look at that plane crash the same way again. Even more revealing are the glimpses at scenes (such as the "Hot Europe" gag) that involved a lot more effects works than you may have realized. "Hollywood Propaganda and World War II" (28 min.) offers a look at how the U.S. Government encouraged movie studios to rally behind the war effort. I confess that politics doesn't really interest me, but the documentary was very engaging. Of special interest to long-time Alfred Hitchcock fans will be the hour-long segment of the "Dick Cavett Show," in which the host chats at length with the director. An audio-only bonus is a 1946 radio adaptation of the film, starring Joseph Cotten (this did not interest me, so I can't comment on the quality). Rounding out the supplements are the film's theatrical trailer, and a Hitchcock-directed "photo drama" composed of still pictures done for Life magazine.
All features are included both on the Blu-ray disc, and the two DVD's included. And while some hardcore Blu-ray fans are complaining that the DVD's are not necessary, I always appreciate combo packs. Affordable portable Blu-ray players have yet to surface as of this writing, so I'm happy to have the extra copies to take along on trips, or maybe take to friends who haven't upgraded to Blu-ray. All in all, this is a first-rate and fully-loaded presentation of a great (if often overlooked) classic entry in the Hitchcock filmography. Certainly, it's a must-have for fans. And the bonus features plus flawless restoration make it worth an upgrade if you have the Warner DVD.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock at the top of his game,
Despite being nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, Alfred Hitchcock's second American film, "Foreign Correspondent," has received little notice through the years. Critics gush, and rightly so, over "Rear Window" and "Vertigo" but scarcely breathe a word about this masterpiece. Released in 1940, the same year as "Rebecca," it has been left to languish in the graveyard of late night television where its very lack of promotion no doubt leads many a Hitchcock fan to believe it must be one of the master's lesser films, something on the order of "The Paradine Case" or "Under Capricorn."
"Foreign Correspondent" is, in fact, one of the director's greatest films, every bit as good as "The 39 Steps," "North by Northwest" and other famous Hitchcock classics and far superior to "Rebecca," a film that Hitchcock himself described as belonging more to Selznick than to him. The Master of Suspense's trademark touches are very evident in this exciting suspense adventure in which Joel McCrea (chosen after Gary Cooper passed on the project), a lightweight reporter for a New York newspaper, is given a plum assignment that leads him into international intrigue involving a kidnapped scientist.
Hitchcock may have been disappointed in McCrea (labelling him "too easygoing") but the often underrated actor is excellent and is aided by one of Hitchcock's most perfect casts. As fellow reporters, George Sanders provides plenty of world-weary wit and the great Robert Benchley, who also wrote some of his own dialogue, adds a light touch in what is otherwise a fairly grim thriller. Herbert Marshall is on hand as the elegant villain, and Edmund Gwenn who would define "warm and cuddly" as Santa Claus in "Miracle on 34th Street" a few years later, exudes evil as an assassin.
There are many standout scenes, all every bit as imaginative as the cropduster attack on Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" or the shower murder in "Psycho." Note the ominous mood in the windmill where the kidnapped scientist is held captive, or the plane's plunge into the ocean just before the finale. The moment when the aged scientist (perfectly embodied by Albert Basserman, an Oscar nominee for his role) is tortured in a hotel room while a helpless Sanders looks on can make you squirm more than anything in "The Birds."
In short, this is Hitchcock at the very top of his game. The only thing "Foreign Correspondent" lacks is the acclaim and notoriety it deserves.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious themes delivered in a charming, entertaining manner,
"Foreign Correspondent" is like a really good martini: it's elegant, yet crisp, refreshing, and eye opening. It was a pleasure to see it again in this new DVD edition. Further, the 33-minute retrospective documentary that accompanies the movie is among the better of the "making of" pieces that accompany the most recent batch of Hitchcock DVDs, not only because it's longer (most of the others average about 20 minutes), but also because it includes ample home movie footage- much of it in color- of the Hitchcock family around the time of the making of this 40's era film, which is very interesting to see. All around, this is a very entertaining DVD.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, Satisfying, Entertaining,
For some reason this Hitchcock movie has been largely ignored by the critics and by fans. It's seldom mentioned in discussions about Hitchcock and, in my opinion, it should be. It's an extremely well-crafted adventure/spy/romance that keeps moving briskly. Despite the seriousness of the underflying themes, it's also one of Hitchcock's most lighthearted and charming movies.
An American reporter on the eve of WWII is sent to Europe to get the big picture. He meets the head of a Peace Now organization and the man's daughter. He also witnesses a political assassination. He's determined to find out what's going on, and in the process uncovers spies, fifth columnists, and a kidnapped elderly diplomat whose memory may contain the difference between peace and war. And he falls in love.
Here's what makes the movie work for me, besides Hitchcock's direction:
-The script is sophisticated, witty at times, and well written.
-The lead characters, Joel McCrea and Laraine Day, play off each other very well. They make an attractive couple.
-The secondary characters are excellent, ranging from George Sanders in probably his best role until All About Eve to Robert Benchley, Edmund Gwen, Herbert Marshall and Albert Basserman.
-The set pieces in the movie are outstanding and many: The assassination and escape in the rain amidst a sea of black unbrellas; the chase through the small town with the man trying to cross the road; the isolated windmill and the eery creaking and search inside the windmill; the escape from the hotel room, across the ledge and into the adjoining room, all the while with that great music theme playing; the murder attempt in the tower which is both tense and very funny; the clipper ship crashing into the ocean; the survivors clinging to wreckage and the slip into the water.
-The music score, which is at once jaunty and romantic, and can be menacing. I can't think of a musical theme in any Hitchcock movie that is as whistleable.
So if the movie is as good as I think it is (not among Hitchcock's top movies, but at least at the top of the second tier), why hasn't it gotten much recognition? I can think of only three factors. First, it is a confidently amusing movie. It has serious themes, but they aren't the hallmark of the film. Perhaps the critics assumed it was a light weight throw-away. Second, it came out after Rebecca and within four or five years was followed by Shadow of a Doubt and Notorious, three powerhouses that could overshadow most movies. Third, the lead actors, while great in their roles and who make a marvelous couple, don't have the glamour and sexual tension that, say, Grant and Bergman had.
This is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. It's about time it came out on DVD. The transfer is very good.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing movie and very relevant for its time in history.,
This review is for the 2004 Warner Brothers DVD.
The story takes place in the late 1930's where an American newspaper reporter named Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) is assigned to go to Europe to report on the possibility of a pending global war. His editor emphasizes that he doesn't want correspondence - he wants news. So Jones goes first to England and later to Holland where he witnesses an apparent assassination of a Dutch diplomat. This starts the beginning of a wild and dangerous investigation where Jones tries to uncover all the details and people responsible for this incident.
There are several things that I liked about this movie. The settings in Europe, especially the windmills in Holland, made a great backdrop to a very good plot. The underlying theme of foreign espionage with several surprising twists was also a major asset to the film. The acting was excellent and so was the cinematography. My only minor turnoff with the film was the noticeable complacency of the characters in very life threatening situations. Overall, it was an extremely relevant film, especially considering it was released shortly before America entered World War II. For me it was a very good movie but not a great one.
The B&W picture quality of this DVD is sharp and crisp but the film was clearly un-restored due to tiny specs of film deterioration showing up sporadically throughout the movie. The sound was very satisfactory. The only bonuses on the DVD include a trailer and a short feature entitled "Foreign Hitchcock".
DVD Quality: B
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ah, those windmills,
This was Alfred Hitchcock's second American movie after REBECCA. Joel McRae plays a reporter who's sent to England to find out what he can about the impending war; he quickly runs smack into the heart of a spy ring and a secret treaty. McRae learns too much and becomes the ring's number 1 target. As is typical in Hitchcock movies, the lead character (McRae) has trouble at first getting anyone to believe his story. Things really get complicated when McRae falls for Lorraine Day, whose father is the leader of the spy ring, though she is unaware of that. In order to keep Day, McRae doesn't want to reveal the truth about her father to her. The chase is on.
Some things are really superb about this movie. The airplane crash scene is a classic technically. The reconstructed windmill set looks great as does the assassination scene in the rain. George Sanders is excellent as the British newspaperman who believes McRae from the start. But Day is only so-so, though McRae is good. The movie "feels" long at 120 minutes, though parts of it are totally riveting. The movies that came later with Cary Grant might be better than this one, but it's still top-drawer Hitchcock. Defintely worth a watch.
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