Okay, this the last Alfred Hitchcock film I’ll review for a while, I promise.
“Topaz” is slightly different from Hitchcock’s other spy thrillers due to being inspired by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, as well as a 1967 Cold War novel, about a French spy that gets mixed up in both American and Russian struggles throughout the world, including New York, Cuba and Paris.
But other than being loosely based on real world events, there really isn’t much to “Topaz.” This was a below-average Hitchcock experience, mostly because of the lack of energy and enthusiasm from the cast. With other thrillers, like “North By Northwest,” we got a likable witty protagonist prone to break out the quips and one-liners, and seemed to love being involved in the spy world. But with “Topaz” our main character, André Devereaux (Frederick Stafford), is very stone-faced most of the film and seems pissed off that he has to get involved in all this.
I can’t recall a single time I laughed during “Topaz,” which is a shame considering how often Hitchcock used humor to lighten the mood in his other films.
There are also some scenes that are far longer than needed to be, especially when André heads down to Cuba and we spend more than 20 minutes after the resistance fighters, as well as their leader, whom André is sleeping with.
The best scene in the film is when André hires a supposed flower-arranger to pose as a magazine writer and talk to some Cuban leaders in town, all to take pictures of secret documents signed between Cuba and Russia, so they can be handed over to the U.S. government. The scene is mostly silent, aside from the constant noise from the Cuban supporters outside of their room. For the first part of the scene, the camera is distant and keeps our spy far away from us. We can’t hear what he’s saying and we know there are armed guards around every corner. This was the most suspenseful and well-shot sequence in the film.
Overall, “Topaz” was fine, nothing too extravagant from Hitchcock this time. There are some sequences that work well, but the acting is nothing special and there are several scenes that slow the film down. Watch this one once you’ve finished all the other Hitchcock thrillers to see what else he had to offer.
Final Grade: C+