Alfred Hitchcock hadn't made a spy thriller since the 1930s, so his 1969 adaptation of Leon Uris's bestseller seemed like a curious choice for the director. But Hitchcock makes Uris's story of the West's investigation into... more » the Soviet Union's dealings with Cuba his own. Frederick Stafford plays a French intelligence agent who works with his American counterpart (John Forsythe) to break up a Soviet spy ring. The film is a bit flat dramatically and visually, and there are sequences that seem to occupy Hitchcock's attention more than others. A minor work all around, with at least two alternative endings shot by Hitchcock. --Tom Keogh« less
"The reasessment of Hitchcock's 1960's work continues, begun with the amazing Marnie. (Torn Curtain may be a lost cause, however.) It's fair to say that Topaz benefits from this ongoing reconsideration. It's just a very good movie.
The plot follows an episodic but compelling arc along the trail of French cold-war spy leaks. A number of satisfying (and inter-twining) sub-stories among the large cast are well presented. The parallel infidelities of the Stafford/Robin husband and wife are interesting and key to ultimate plot resolution. Some very nice "set pieces" are included, the tent poles that support Hitchcock movies. I found the location photography to be both realistic and refreshing. The film's main fault, of course, is the absence of a convincing ending. How Hitch believed that the "duel" ending would stand up is beyond me. I'm not sure how Uris ended his book.
Jarre's music is almost laughable, certainly in comparison with the monumental Herrmann. Topaz is a serious movie about serious themes (betrayal, good versus evil) and Jarre's music does nothing to advance these themes.
Finally, Leonard Maltin's commentary touches powerfully on Hitchcock's directorial powers, the likes of which are few and far-between these days. Outside of maybe Soderberg and Tykwer, most modern-day directors have little idea of where to place the camera, how to sequence images through cutting, et al. (Poster child of directorial ineptitude is Ron Howard who absolutely doesn't have a clue.) Suffice it to say that Topaz is a very well directed movie that delivers visual style and meaning in spades."
Had potential. . .
DP | 11/18/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"THE MOVIE: Topaz is one of those movies that when I watch it I keep checking the time to figure out how much longer I have to watch it. The reason is simple. There are some great scenes and there is an okay story but it takes to long to actually get to the story. The movie picks up for me whem Frederick Stafford goes to New York. I think the movie could have included only a little bit of the things that happened before since we are told that there is a defecting russian (Credits). Then have the russian defector tell what he knows. Finally John Forsyth commissions Frederick Stafford in his hotel room and the movie starts like that. I would take other bits here and there out. It could have been a great hour and 45 minute movie! It would have had it's problems but it would be enjoyable. (Many would disagree that so much could be taken out but this is my opinion.) This brings me to ----
THE DVD: I like that there is an uncut version on the dvd- the problem is the SHORTER theatrical version should have also been included! It needed the trimming that was done for it's theatrical release! Why didn't they include both versions, or the theatrical version with a deleted scenes archive (prefferably both versions)? The fact that the un tightened version is all that is included adds to what was wrong with the film - even in it's theatrical release. Once again I like the fact the uncut version is included but it shouldn't be ALL that was included.
The documentary rocks. I enjoyed it. It isn't the best documentary in the Universal Hitchcock dvd library but it rocks just the same.
I like that they included the three different endings as well...
The trailer isn't his best but is worth a look as well.
The other extras are rather standard but it is nice to have them anyway."
Second-Rate Hitchcock Has Its Moments
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 09/24/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Director Alfred Hitchcock's uneven adaptation of Leon Uris' "Topaz" does not rank among his finest efforts. However, the 1969 espionage thriller is not without merit. There are classic Hitchcockian touches scattered amidst a rather overlong story, particularly his imaginative use of sound during the New York segments. Though lacking in star power, the international cast (particularly John Forsythe, Frederick Stafford, Roscoe Lee Browne, John Vernon and Karin Dor) is better than expected. Unfortunately, the film suffers from several lengthy dialogue sequences that bog down the globe-trotting narrative. "Topaz" cries out for more action - and less talk - from the Master of Suspense."
Decent Hitchcock Spy Thriller With Great Acting
Anthony Nasti | Staten Island, New York United States | 10/01/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the failure of "Torn Curtain", Hitchcock decided to make another Cold War spy thriller. Based on the Leon Uris novel of the same name, "Topaz" is meant to be an exciting and suspenseful spy drama. However, it comes off as poor excuse for a James Bond movie.
If that last comment seemed harsh, don't take it to heart. "Topaz" has actually aged fairly well. It isn't a masterpiece and pales in comparison to even "Torn Curtain", but it sill makes for an entertainign film.
The film's plot involves a CIA agent (John Forsythe) who has French operative by the name of Deveraux (Frederick Stafford) go to Cuba and intercept Russian missile rumors and a Nato spy named Topaz. While in Havana, Deveraux's investigation becomes riskier with each move. People are double crossed, mudered and comitting suicide. When he returns home to Paris, the danger builds, leading up to a predictable but overall satisfying end.
The film does have some good things going for it. It is far from Hitch's best work, but some of the scenes are fantastic. The acting is top notch as well, especially Stafford, John Vernon and Forsythe. The extras are cool, especially the three alternate endings. I don't highly recommend "Topaz", but it certainly won't be a waste if you buy it."
Return to the tangled web of the Cold War
gobirds2 | New England | 08/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1969's TOPAZ was Hitchock's second return in that decade to his earlier spy thriller films. Shot directly after 1966's TORN CURTAIN, Hitchcock's TOPAZ is a more matter-of-fact tale than a genuine thriller where real lives were at stake. Essentially an American intelligence head (John Forsythe) uses his friend in the French Intelligence (Frederick Stafford) to spy for the United States in Cuba and at the same time they try to ferret out a high French official passing on secrets to the Soviets. This all takes place during the height of the Cuban missile crisis. Roscoe Lee Browne as Philippe Dubois has the best scenes in the film as he has to get close to the Cuban United Nations delegation visiting Harlem and staying at the Theresa Hotel to photograph some secret papers from a high official (John Vernon as Rico Parra). These scenes were what Hitchcock called pure cinema. TOPAZ contains an interesting score by Parisian Maurice Jarre."