Another late era Hitchcock, this time with Paul Newman… and Mary freakin’ Poppins!
Alas, Julie Andrews doesn’t have much to do for most of the film which is less than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. However, if we’re talking about something really quite atrocious, it’s the paranoid police state that is East Germany, which is well represented in the film. Not only that, many a German character not only doesn’t trust, but resents Newman and Americans in general. Speaking of the Germans, there are no subtitles, so you may get as frustrated as Paul Newman’s character, not fully understanding what’s going on. I’m pretty sure that was by directorial design.
That sense of unease pervades the movie. There’s one of the most delightfully uncomfortable murder scenes I’ve seen put to film — because Hitchcock evidently wanted to show how killing someone isn’t as easy as you often see in spy films. At the same time, it doesn’t have the unease of a Vertigo or Psycho nor the engrossing plot of a Rear Window or North by Northwest. We don’t even have a Bernard Herrman score, which surprised me. I was sad to learn the studio evidently pressured Hitchcock to go with another composer — and this may have led to a falling out between those two longtime collaborators.
Like Marnie before it, I’m going to give it three out of five stars. While it’s not a bad film per se, it’s really more for a Hitchcock completionist watch… or perhaps some 60s spy film retrospective. Because of the Cold War theme and, especially, the East German setting, I liked this more than Marnie even where Marnie had more technical panache, but your mileage –or Stasi-monitored kilometerage– may vary.