In order to watch Topaz, you have to go into it with different expectations. It’s not the usual Hitchcock we’re familiar with. It’s not a splashy thriller like Notorious or Saboteur. There’s no Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman or Grace Kelly. No Saul Bass titles or Bernard Herrmann score. There’s no individual getting swept up in larger affairs. Topaz is a full fledged about espionage. However that’s not why I’m down on it. I’m fine with Hitchcock taking a change of pace. The irony is, he made a film that was in-line with the type of filmmaking that was going on at the time. He tried to be with the times and it did not work. Not because it’s different. Rather because it’s dull.
The main issue with Topaz is because it’s so low key, the audience needs something or someone to hold onto. None of the characters in the story possess anything that makes them interesting to us, with the lone exception of Roscoe Lee Brown as Philippe Dubois. The sequence involving him is the most entertaining of the entire film and it happens pretty early. Brown’s character also feels like the only one in the entire film that feels like he has a story we could be interested in. I would have enjoyed the film being all about him.
Topaz, while an admirable attempt to take advantage of serious material, sadly is an indicator of the time of the Master of Suspense is coming to a close. It’s just not an interesting or entertaining film. Though I can’t be totally disappointed. I can allow a Topaz when you have so many great films in your filmography.