Torn Curtain/C,C-
Universal/1966/128/ANA 1.85

     Mood plays such an important part or reaction to a movie. Many moons ago I recall seeing Torn Curtain and thinking it was pretty good. What must I have been drinking? How could this cold war espionage thriller go so wrong? How could Hitchcock make such an essentially boring film? Even some of the camera framing is so poorly done it's simply annoying. There are some minor treats buried in the slow and ponderous plotting. Gromek, unhappily a minor character, is a crafted with an off-center sense of humor that yields ominous pleasure, but think about how poorly written the character of Professor Lindt is done. Well, there's nothing left to do but scratch your head and let the dandruff fall where it may.
    The preposterous plot revolves around an American physicist who determines to travel to East Germany on a personal espionage mission. When Michael Armstrong's research project is closed down by the American government because it fails to yield the promised results, Armstrong believes a Eastern European professor has the missing key to unlock his project. He takes a circuitous route to pick the mind of renowned physicist Lindt.

Get off the damn phone Gromek! ©Universal

      Director Hitchcock turns to contemporary stars Paul Newman and Julie Andrews to add luster to Torn Curtain. Unfortunately, there's no screen chemistry between the stars. The script is far too big an obstacle for the actors to overcome. The results are lamentable film, more so considering it came from Hitchcock. The best character in the film even gets killed off too early in a fight with Armstrong. Maybe Gromek should have dispatched Armstrong. It would have been a better film. The failure of Torn Curtain must lie at the feet of Hitchcock. The timing is all wrong. The pacing is miserable. Hitchcock is entitled to some wrong moves with all the fine “wrong man” movies he gave us. Torn Curtain stands out and smells. 
     It looks like the telecine guys must have disliked Torn Curtain more than I did. The transfer is shockingly soft. I think the soft scenes outnumber the sharp ones. Maybe Hitchcock was employing some kindly filtering on his close-ups of Julie Andrews, but the delivery of this DVD baffles me, especially in light of the outstanding quality of all the other Universal Hitchcock releases. Color is fine. The street profile as an introduction to Copenhagen is fully saturated. The color on supporting actress's Lila Kedrova's scarf are an explosion of color amidst the dull backgrounds of Eastern Europe. Dolby Digital 2 channel mono is serviceable.
    The background of Torn Curtain is well outlined in a generic documentary, utilizing stills from the shoot. Difficulties of the production are outlined. The problems with star Newman are touched upon. This is the film during which composer Bernard Hermann and Hitchcock fell out with each and Hermann did not complete the score.

Mother Night/A-/A-
The eccentric style of Nick Nolte is perfect for the angst ridden Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a hero or a villain.

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