Topaz (1969)

Topaz review
This is another movie that my father in law suggested I’d watch. I had never heard of it and once I finally got around to checking it out I was happily surprised that this is a Hitchcock movie. It turns out the X-Men were not the only ones who were involved in preventing the Russian missle crisis in Cuba.

Topaz review

As a viewer you are introduced in the world of spies. Now before you start thinking about Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne let me be clear that this movie was made in 1969, so you should think of James Bond with lesser gadgets, cars and women. A Russian intelligence officer has defected to America (which is shown in a great action piece set in Denmark) and has information about the missiles in Cuba and of something called Topaz. Since the Americans can’t head to Cuba to check out what’s going on they sent in a French agent to try and get more information. As he finds out more and also gets information which might endanger France he has to be very careful about who we talks to and which information he shares.

Topaz Hitchcock

Watching this movie I started wondering about something. When you know that a movie was directed by a specific director (like Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese, Lars von Trier or Terrence Malick) who you like a lot, are you subconsciously already prepared to like it a lot more? If you didn’t know who directed that movie would you rate it differently?
I started watching the “classic” Hitchcock movies which are widely loved, so I started out with his best work. Because of it I started having certain expectations of his movies and this one disappointed me. There wasn’t any real tension, hardly any big surprises or shocks and the story was very straightforward. It isn’t as great as those well known movies, but still a good enough spy thriller to check out. I wonder though if I’d say the same if it looked the same but was directed by someone else I didn’t know. Do you ever have that feeling?

Score: 6

4 thoughts on “Topaz (1969)

  1. Yeah, this isn’t classic Hitchcock. ‘Topaz’ occurred in the latter part of his career when his films just didn’t have those elements you noted. Although, I think ‘Frenzy’ (his next film) remains under appreciated and was a throwback to his prime. Good look at this one, Nostra.

  2. Your question about affording an extra attention to a film of a known artist is a very relevant critical concern. I’ve often wondered if “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” would be dismissed (if remembered at all) as a trashy bit of seedy melodrama were it not for the prestigious participation of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford? I have always enjoyed “Topaz”, probably as much knowing it’s a disrespected vehicle thus watchable without the additional burden of the overly worshipful hype of some of his better films. But it’s certainly not a great (or even good) film, and it might be useful to be reminded that that is what is flawed in the Auteur Theory, in that often the far lesser works of “important” directors are often given a free ride simply due to their pedigree, when in fact sometimes bad is simply bad. I doubt all of the critical double-talk in the world can redeem a “Marnie” or an “A Countess From Hong Kong”, though there are those who seem to fear that pointing out a good filmmaker can make the occasional misstep will reduce the value of their better works.

    • Such a insightful comment. Don’t know about the movies you mention, but I agree. I think a lot of work gets a pass because of a specific name that is attached, whether that’s a director or actor. Every director has some bad movies….

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