Customer Review

60 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You're just a wee bit unscrupulous, aren't you?", January 4, 2005
This review is from: Foreign Correspondent (DVD)
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.

Cookieman108
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 30, 2008 4:34:24 PM PDT
Karen Shaub says:
I believe Martin Kosleck is in there too.

Posted on Apr 11, 2009 8:57:26 PM PDT
surf2die4 says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on May 5, 2009 12:11:06 AM PDT
Raymond M. says:
Oops. That wasn't Grant and Bergman in Spellbound, it was PECK and Bergman.

Otherwise, good review.

Posted on Oct 8, 2009 9:33:03 PM PDT
I sympathize with "Surf2die4."
I suggest that "cookieman108" could greatly improve this review by very generously wielding an editorial blue pencil.
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