Monday, 26 September 2011
DVD: ALFRED HITCHCOCK SEASON -TOPAZ (1969)
Before I start the review, here's a list of Hitchcock films in, respectively, the box sets The Masterpiece Collection (14 films) and The Signature Collection (7 films). I've already reviewed two, the rest will be reviewed over the next few months in between other films and TV box set series.
Family Plot, Frenzy, Marnie, Psycho, Rear Window, Rope, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble with Harry, Topaz, Torn Curtain, Vertigo.
Dial M for Murder, I Confess, Stage Fright, The Wrong Man, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest.
This is the American edition with 9, not 6, films.
Again, the American edition. The British version has an incredibly dull cover (just his name and a signature) and is very flimsy.
This is the Masterpiece Collection cover and, seeing as we're on the subject, this edition of the film includes material which Hitchcock deleted after a series of disastrous previews. This isn't mentioned anywhere on the cover and the running time given is that of the original release, so it's wrong. It also includes three different endings, none of which are particularly good. The music is sometimes oddly inappropriate as when a father and daughter run upstairs concerned about the daughter's husband and then back down when they think he's been thrown out of a window. The accompanying music is almost jaunty rather than dramatic and suspenseful.
There's a half hour long extra of Leonard Maltin attempting to defend Topaz. He argues that one of the problems is that, despite the good cast, the film contains no stars who could grab the audience's attention. This is true. He also argues that it's a very European film in terms of structure and pacing and would probably have done better if previewed at an art house. This may well be true but it would also defeat the object as Hitchcock made films for mainstream audiences, albeit with intelligence and sophistication -he never pandered to the lowest common denominator. Maltin also focuses typical Hitchcock touches. Just to give one example, and it is a good one: a man is holding a woman, he shoots her and she slowly sinks to the ground, her purple dress slowly flowing outwards as a symbol for blood.
None of this addresses the fact that it is over-long, dull and rambling. I fell asleep after about 75 minutes. Admittedly this was around 10.15 at night and by then I'd drunk half a bottle of wine, but still... So I'm going to have to go along with the consensus that this really is one of Hitchcock's least effective films and it actually made me appreciate the skill that went into The Trouble With Harry (see earlier post).
Next up, if the DVDs don't fall out of the box onto the floor as they did a few minutes ago, is Torn Curtain (another apparently problematic film) followed by Rope. They will appear, but don't hold your breath.