Torn Curtain (1966) – Alfred Hitchcock

Paul Newman and Julie Andrews star in this thriller from director Alfred Hitchcock. And while the Master of Suspense is still a fantastic director, this one isn’t quite as thrill-packed as the poster would suggest. Which is not to say it isn’t enjoyable, the leads are wonderful, and it’s a very enjoyable story, it’s just not a nail-biter.

Newman plays American scientist Micheal Armstrong who along with his assistant/fiancee Sarah (Andrews) are in Europe as part of a scientific delegation. Armstrong asks Sarah to go home after he is summoned to another meeting, but she follows him, and learns that he is publicly defecting to East Germany.

Against his wishes, she comes with him, and the pair soon see what life is like behind the Iron Curtain. Sarah believes Micheal’s defection is real, but he is, in fact,working for the American government and is hoping to meet with Professor Gustav Lindt (Ludwig Donath) in an effort to abscond with some of his work that will help with America’s own missile research.

As they are watched and followed everywhere they go, the couple live under constant stress, one that is amped up when Micheal reveals to Sarah, finally, what is really going on. But getting the secret is only part of Armstrong’s mission. Now he has to find a way out of East Germany not just for himself, but for Sarah as well.

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The race is on for the border and safety!

The story moves at a pretty solid pace, but gives the actors plenty of time to develop their characters, even as they are plunged into increasingly dangerous situations. The farmhouse fight is a wonderful standout sequence as Newman struggles against a secret police officer, but has to keep things quiet and not alert others to their presence.

The escape sequence is long, and takes up the last quarter of the film, and is augmented nicely with a score by John Addison, especially while our romantic/spy duo travel across the country to Berlin on a bus, accompanied by a police escort, while another draws closer behind them all the time, close to blowing their cover.

There are just desserts, humorous moments, including Hitch’s cameo, the film plays out as an enjoyable Cold War thriller that allows us to enjoy performances by two iconic screen stars.

I rather like this screen pairing, and as much as I enjoy his work with Grant and Stewart, letting Newman take the lead, and he carries the film well with his laconic style, and its easy to get swept up in the story of the pair as they hold onto love while nothing around them can be trusted.

While not one of Hitchcock’s greatest, it certainly is enjoyable, and tells a good story with a great cast.

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