Stung by the bitter failure of ‘Marnie’, Alfred Hitchcock attempted to bounce back with another star-studded suspense. This was a little film called ‘Torn Curtain’.
Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) is an American scientist who defects to East Berlin. This is all a surprise to his fiancee/assistant Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews) who came with him on his European trip against his wishes and stumbles upon his plan.
Is this brilliant mind really going to offer his knowledge of a missile defense program to the evil East Berliners? Rest assured, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye.
There are only two sequences which anyone takes note of from this movie: one is a chase throughout a museum (echoed years later in Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’) and a violent conflict in a kitchen. This was undeniably brutal for the time.
The third act is all about the duo’s escape. An incredibly long stretch of it is them sitting on a bus in a suspense-free sequence. There is a fairly tense bit of time spent in a theater and a fine grand finale. Aside from that, it seems like the characters are either talking to Germans about math equations, avoiding dinner obligations or struggling with a lack of communication in their relationship.
The leads don’t really seem to have much chemistry. Reportedly, Hitchcock didn’t enjoy working with Newman or Andrews and they seem to be fairly disinterested in the material.
Special features include: a look at the making of the film, a look at the score (which was quite controversial because of a different approach), photos, trailers and production notes.
A few memorable moments save ‘Torn Curtain’ from being a complete failure. The plot is suspect and the performances are uninspired but this has some stylish flourishes that offer mild rewards for those who decide to give it a chance.
Add an extra half star to this rating.
Rated PG 128 minutes 1966