Torn Curtain (1966)

Alfred Hitchcock directs Paul Newman, Julie Andrews and Lila Kedrova in this espionage thriller where an American scientist defects over to the Soviets… only for his unwitting girlfriend to follow him beyond the Iron Curtain.

Nobody’s favourite Hitchcock. The set-pieces are actually pretty awesome – an arduous drawn-out murder, a bus ride con, a chase against a sea of escaping bodies! All these wonderful burst of extended tension are expertly orchestrated. The plot that strings them loosely together is wayward and unfocused. A few more drafts of the screenplay might have wrung a bit more mileage out of Newman and Andrews’ mistrust of each other’s motivations. Instead we often tread water – with Newman avoiding letting his beloved in on the grand scheme and her waiting in reception areas until the great escape picks up pace. Neither star feel particularly stretched in their bland roles and they certainly don’t generate any heat as a potential red hot pairing. Torn Curtain still fills an afternoon neatly, the now unknown faces who populate the film make up for the mismatched leads. If anything Torn Curtain reminds one most of Hitchcock’s Thirties thrillers where couples jauntily evaded the continental saboteurs and the double agents of a totalitarian regime. Maybe this style of thriller had its day back when the Allieds took Germany? It certainly feels creaky sitting between Marnie and Frenzy.


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