It's been a while since I have given a film a second chance. I've been in a mood for Alfred Hitchcock's work since I signed up for an online class celebrating 50 years of his work. Hitchcock had a very prolific career and sometimes you can overlook a film or overreact to a film that may not be quite on the level of some of the masterworks of a director. I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about my revisiting of the film "Torn Curtain" from 1966.
I first saw "Torn Curtain" around 2009-2010. At the time the only films of Alfred Hitchcock I had seen were "Psycho," "Rear Window" and "Vertigo." Turner Classic Movies (TCM) had been running his films in a marathon throughout the month. I decided to take the time and catch up on the career of this cinematic pioneer. One film I looked forward to was this political thriller that involved a man trying to retrieve a formula from East Germany and bring it back to the United States. That film was "Torn Curtain."
My first and only viewing at the time was filled with boredom as I found the film dense and sparse at the same time. I found nothing compelling about the leads, despite the pedigree of both of them. The plot felt labyrinthine. And there was just too much talking that didn't move things along quick enough for me. This was my first true disappointment with Hitchcock. I had high expectations that were not met.
Then came this course. TCM would again showcase a majority of his films and "Torn Curtain" was among them. I saw that it was online to stream and would expire the next day. So I decided to revisit this film from the later stages of the career of the Master of Suspense.
I judged this film wrong. It's really good. Bordering on great for me.
"Torn Curtain" really engaged with me as a spy thriller. Sure it lacks the extravaganza of the Sean Connery Bond films that were going at the time, but entertaining nonetheless in a Hitchcockian manner. It works in quite a few ways.
Paul Newman and Julie Andrews were not the type of actor that Hitchcock enjoyed working with. He particularly wasn't a fan of Newman's method acting. Despite this, I say it works. I see Michael Armstrong and Sarah Sherman. Not Newman and Andrews. This film, while on a global scale similar to his other films, is not the grand adventure of films like "Saboteur" or "North by Northwest." This didn't need Cary Grant or James Stewart. Hitch needed a new dimension to pull of these roles for this film and this was the right call.
It's also beautifully filmed with some shots that ease you into the tension such as this scene when Newman's character hears footsteps following him.
There's also a great scene that has Armstrong and the Farmer's wife (Carolyn Conwell) have to kill a man, but find out it isn't as easy as you think. It's an underrated gem of suspense filmmaking by Hitchcock.
I don't want to spoil too much of the film or this game I'm describing, but I wonder if part of the plot inspired a key moment in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater?
I was unfair to "Torn Curtain." It's very suspenseful and has all the elements we love to see in Hitchcock's filmography. I actually did not give this film another chance where I did give another chance to his 1969 film "Topaz." I've watched that film 3 times and can safely say I do not like that one. "Torn Curtain" however is a satisfying ride that is not as dense as I originally claimed it was.