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||IMDB Rating: 6.3/10 from M votes
||Release: 19 Dec 1969 /
||Director: Alfred Hitchcock,
||Synopsis: A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring.
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Like so many Hollywood talents, Hitchcock was stereotyped. Also like so
many Hollywood talents, whenever he tried to escape stereotyping, he
would get criticized. That certainly was the case with TOPAZ. Although
not as humorous, nor as romantic, nor even as exciting as the
director's best films, the movie is nonetheless an intelligent and
intriguing spy drama, one that compares more to a motion picture like
DAY OF THE JACKYL than usual Hitchcock fare.
His other spy dramas, like NORTH BY NORTHWEST, may be more fun, but
none of them are as realistic. In fact, very few spy films have the
authenticity as TOPAZ. The story is based on fact. In 1962, a Russian
top-level KGB defector informed the U.S. that some very high-level
French diplomats, in a group called "Sapphire", were selling secrets to
the Soviet Union. TIME Magazine printed this story in April 26, 1968,
and did so using the same source that Leon Uris did: the U.S.
sympathizing (and exiled) former Chief of French Intelligence, Philippe
Thyraud de Vosjoli.
Incidentally, a viewer needs to know the chronology and key events
surrounding the 1962 Cuban Missile Crises as background, or else the
film will be confusing. I suspect many critics condemn it because it's
easier for them to dismiss the film rather than confront their own
Not that this movie is without weaknesses. Hitchcock was no realist,
and the grim world of films like THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is
probably the type of ambiance it should have presented, but doesn't.
However, I definitely join the camp of those who consider it
underrated. I read writers on Hitchcock who unthinkingly rank TOPAZ
with his worst stuff, and yet many of us prefer it over THE TROUBLE
WITH HARRY, MR. AND MRS. SMITH, and other Hitchcock works that don't
get castigated as nearly as much. I can't help but suspect they receive
less criticism because they are more typical Hitchcock. This film is
atypical Hitchcock, so readjust your expectations accordingly.
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