40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2006
The reasessment of Hitchcock's 1960's work continues, begun with the amazing Marnie. (Torn Curtain may be a lost cause, however.) It's fair to say that Topaz benefits from this ongoing reconsideration. It's just a very good movie.
The plot follows an episodic but compelling arc along the trail of French cold-war spy leaks. A number of satisfying (and inter-twining) sub-stories among the large cast are well presented. The parallel infidelities of the Stafford/Robin husband and wife are interesting and key to ultimate plot resolution. Some very nice "set pieces" are included, the tent poles that support Hitchcock movies. I found the location photography to be both realistic and refreshing. The film's main fault, of course, is the absence of a convincing ending. How Hitch believed that the "duel" ending would stand up is beyond me. I'm not sure how Uris ended his book.
Jarre's music is almost laughable, certainly in comparison with the monumental Herrmann. Topaz is a serious movie about serious themes (betrayal, good versus evil) and Jarre's music does nothing to advance these themes.
Finally, Leonard Maltin's commentary touches powerfully on Hitchcock's directorial powers, the likes of which are few and far-between these days. Outside of maybe Soderberg and Tykwer, most modern-day directors have little idea of where to place the camera, how to sequence images through cutting, et al. (Poster child of directorial ineptitude is Ron Howard who absolutely doesn't have a clue.) Suffice it to say that Topaz is a very well directed movie that delivers visual style and meaning in spades.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2005
Despite the failure of "Torn Curtain", Hitchcock decided to make another Cold War spy thriller. Based on the Leon Uris novel of the same name, "Topaz" is meant to be an exciting and suspenseful spy drama. However, it comes off as poor excuse for a James Bond movie.
If that last comment seemed harsh, don't take it to heart. "Topaz" has actually aged fairly well. It isn't a masterpiece and pales in comparison to even "Torn Curtain", but it sill makes for an entertainign film.
The film's plot involves a CIA agent (John Forsythe) who has French operative by the name of Deveraux (Frederick Stafford) go to Cuba and intercept Russian missile rumors and a Nato spy named Topaz. While in Havana, Deveraux's investigation becomes riskier with each move. People are double crossed, mudered and comitting suicide. When he returns home to Paris, the danger builds, leading up to a predictable but overall satisfying end.
The film does have some good things going for it. It is far from Hitch's best work, but some of the scenes are fantastic. The acting is top notch as well, especially Stafford, John Vernon and Forsythe. The extras are cool, especially the three alternate endings. I don't highly recommend "Topaz", but it certainly won't be a waste if you buy it.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Director Alfred Hitchcock's uneven adaptation of Leon Uris' "Topaz" does not rank among his finest efforts. However, the 1969 espionage thriller is not without merit. There are classic Hitchcockian touches scattered amidst a rather overlong story, particularly his imaginative use of sound during the New York segments. Though lacking in star power, the international cast (particularly John Forsythe, Frederick Stafford, Roscoe Lee Browne, John Vernon and Karin Dor) is better than expected. Unfortunately, the film suffers from several lengthy dialogue sequences that bog down the globe-trotting narrative. "Topaz" cries out for more action - and less talk - from the Master of Suspense.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2004
Topaz is one of those movies that when I watch it I keep checking the time to figure out how much longer I have to watch it. The reason is simple. There are some great scenes and there is an okay story but it takes to long to actually get to the story. The movie picks up for me whem Frederick Stafford goes to New York. I think the movie could have included only a little bit of the things that happened before since we are told that there is a defecting russian (Credits). Then have the russian defector tell what he knows. Finally John Forsyth commissions Frederick Stafford in his hotel room and the movie starts like that. I would take other bits here and there out. It could have been a great hour and 45 minute movie! It would have had it's problems but it would be enjoyable. (Many would disagree that so much could be taken out but this is my opinion.) This brings me to ----
I like that there is an uncut version on the dvd- the problem is the SHORTER theatrical version should have also been included! It needed the trimming that was done for it's theatrical release! Why didn't they include both versions, or the theatrical version with a deleted scenes archive (prefferably both versions)? The fact that the un tightened version is all that is included adds to what was wrong with the film - even in it's theatrical release. Once again I like the fact the uncut version is included but it shouldn't be ALL that was included.
The documentary rocks. I enjoyed it. It isn't the best documentary in the Universal Hitchcock dvd library but it rocks just the same.
I like that they included the three different endings as well...
The trailer isn't his best but is worth a look as well.
The other extras are rather standard but it is nice to have them anyway.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2004
After 1966's "Torn Curtain" flopped, Hitchcock decided to make another spy thriller. "Topaz", based on Leon Uris's best - selling novel of the same name, is meant to be an exciting, suspenseful espionage thriller involving nuclear missiles in Cuba. Despite a few engaging sequences, that show Hitch still had it, the film comes off as a second - rate James Bond flick rather than a Hitchcock masterpiece.
John Forsythe (the only recognizable actor in the entire cast) plays a CIA agent who recruits a French Operative named Devereaux (Frederick Stafford, who gives a great performance despite the film's flaws)to help him find out if rumors of Russian missiles in Cuba are true. His investigation leaves behind a string of casualities who either kill themselves or get murdered. The plot seems cool, but it's slow - moving and hard to follow at some points.
The main thing that keeps "Topaz" afloat is the top - notch acting. Hitchcock clearly thought that great acting would triumph over starpower, which is why he filled the cast with highly talented unknowns. In the past, legends like Sean Connery, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, and a host of others starred in Hitchcock masterpieces and gave great performances in their roles, but at same points were unconvincing. The acting in "Topaz" is flawless; I recommend it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2009
After the cold war in East Germany in "Torn Curtain", Hitchcock had to deal with the big bad wolf, the USSR. And he did in this film, though it concerns more Washington and France, but only a little bit Cuba and practically not at all the USSR, directly at least since the bad guy is the USSR. We are in October 1962. A top KGB official defects to the USA and reveals a few things, but little, about Cuba. He confirms at least something is happening in Cuba. Hitchcock finds it funny to insist on the incompetence and impotence of the Americans, and particularly the CIA. That's the first remark from the KGB fleeing official. But it is shown in length. They are obliged to go through a French secret agent in Washington to get the information they want, including the pictures of his mission to Cuba for surveillance of the Russian deliveries. And it is funny how the French commercial attaché of the French embassy is going to use his connection with another French agent from the French West Indies to approach the necessary person in the Cuban delegation to the United Nations General Assembly to get a copy of the agreement between the USSR and Cuba. And he will then go to Cuba himself to get the hard photographic data he needs. What is surprising is not the fact that some French secret service people helped the USA at a time when they could not get what they wanted, in 1962 when the world was on the brink of a nuclear war. What is funny is that this film comes four years after the decision by General de Gaulle to kick NATO out of France, and one year after the famous 1968 events and in fact the year when General de Gaulle resigned from power in the spring of 1969. The film was made in 1969. The film was released in the USA only on December 19, 1969 and mostly in 1970 for Europe. It shows how without the French the missile crisis in Cuba would not have been solved by John F. Kennedy, a recollection that goes against the strong campaign against General de Gaulle and France in 1969 due to the strong opposition General de Gaulle took against the Vietnam war in 1967 and 1968, including his famous speech in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, shortly before Nixon sent US troops into that country. But the film has another interest in the title and what it means: a spying ring directly in the French government at top level of specialists and technical executives, just under ministerial positions. That ring called Topaz was spying in the French government and NATO for the USSR. The film shows how the poor commercial attaché is mixed in the doings of that ring without knowing at first and then knowing and trying to expose the ring and the men, but expose them within the very power structure of France, which is the way things are done in France: keep everything within the family circle and let's wash our dirty laundry in private. They even let the top rung of that ring leave for the Soviet Union when the whole business is finished and the commercial attaché is sent back to Washington from where he had been called back. There Hitchcock is becoming in a way funny, scary too, but definitely funny. The French and their little love affairs, and their little private luncheons and dinners, the French and their republican aristocratic dealings and etiquette, and of curse their cute eighteenth and nineteenth century houses and mansions in Paris, these places you hardly see behind their majestic facades. And Hitchcock even uses well-known French actors from the 1968-1969 period and makes them speak English with a very elaborate English French accent, far away from the French accent we all associate with camembert, red wine and bread baguette, but that has all to do with fluent English spoken by bilingual French individuals. Maurice Chevalier's out. It's that humor that is funny, both strange and ah ah. But with time I am afraid it has aged and is more nostalgic, for those who can remember, than really active today. Though Cuba is still there and still standing in its revolutionary shoes, though pretty worn out and being renovated as fast as possible, in these days when all the ex-Maoist and ex-Soviet guerrilla or open warfare movements like the Tamil Tigers, the FARCs and the Nepali Maoists are moving out of the violent terrorist picture and eventually back into the political and economic vaster democratic picture, and Russia is definitely still trying to put the Soviet boots back on and rebuild their past glory and power. The great change is that China is the potential first economic power in the world and that they have decided to associate quite a few people with them in that new role. We might finally reach a real multi-polar world twenty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain and of the dual-divide across the big global cake.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1969's TOPAZ was Hitchock's second return in that decade to his earlier spy thriller films. Shot directly after 1966's TORN CURTAIN, Hitchcock's TOPAZ is a more matter-of-fact tale than a genuine thriller where real lives were at stake. Essentially an American intelligence head (John Forsythe) uses his friend in the French Intelligence (Frederick Stafford) to spy for the United States in Cuba and at the same time they try to ferret out a high French official passing on secrets to the Soviets. This all takes place during the height of the Cuban missile crisis. Roscoe Lee Browne as Philippe Dubois has the best scenes in the film as he has to get close to the Cuban United Nations delegation visiting Harlem and staying at the Theresa Hotel to photograph some secret papers from a high official (John Vernon as Rico Parra). These scenes were what Hitchcock called pure cinema. TOPAZ contains an interesting score by Parisian Maurice Jarre.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2013
I know this movie isn't typically hailed as one of the best of Hitchcocks films, but I love it. I grew up in the 60's and therefore really enjoy the costumes, the plot and the intrigue. One of my all-time favorite Hitchcock scenes is in the movie -- the scene where Juanita dies and falls to the floor. As Juanita falls, her deep purple dress spreads out around her and it looks like blood. It emphasizes the tragedy of Juanita's death without actually using blood. For this one scene alone, this movie should be in your Hitchcock collection. I watch this movie over and over for this scene, but there are many other really terrific Hitchcock moments. Watch it and find a few favorites of your own.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I liked this movie a lot. "Topaz" is based upon the Leon Uris novel of the same title, and I consider that novel to be perhaps Uris' finest work. While the movie does not quite measure up to the excellence of the novel, it makes a brave attempt to do so. This is an engrossing and realistic film about the Cuban Missile Crisis and retains its relevance today. Without giving away too much, the story revolves around a French espionage agent who supplies vital intelligence information about the Soviet missile buildup in Cuba. This film is multidimensional, with engrossing characters, a solid storyline, and historical relevance. Not to be missed.
Highly recommended. RJB.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2008
A great Hitchcock film. It's the supposed effort of one French intelligence
man & the US to expose the Russian missile buildup in Cuba in 1962. The mix of fact & fiction is seamless. I found it to be entertaining & full of twists & turns that kept me on the edge of my seat. Hitchcock in top form.