‘Topaz’ is quite different than most of the previous movies in the filmography of  and also lacks the (American movie) stars in its distribution, as his fans were accustomed in the 20 or 30 years that preceded its release in 1969. These may be two of the principal reasons that the movie is less credited in by the critics and historians of cinema. There are, however, sufficient reasons of satisfaction for the movie fans, and the film does not fall in my opinion lower than ‘Torn Curtain’ that preceded it by three years, and also brought to screen a Cold War spy story. On the contrary, I would say.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065112

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065112

 

The film brings to screen a novel by which tells a true story of a Soviet spy ring in the high French political environments during the critical days of the Cuban missiles crisis. The events in the fall of 1962 that brought the world closer than ever to an atomic war were since then the subject or background of many books and films, but Hitchcock was the first well-known film director to bring what was at that time very recent history to screen, in a moment when the story was still under censorship in France. However, this was not in the area of comfort for Hitchcock who liked to be very involved in the writing of the story and building of the suspense, an opportunity that was lost with ‘Topaz’ . This may be also why there is less Hitchcock thrill in this film than we are used. There is yet quality, but more in the details than in the overall architecture.

 

(video source Alfred Hitchcock TV)

One of the best parts of the film is the rendition of the atmosphere of the time and places where the action takes place. Washington, Moscow, Copenhagen, Paris are all well served by filming on location, the only exception is Cuba, for obvious reasons. We can say that Hitchcock was a pioneer (also) of the international spy thriller, and we can only imagine what would have happened if he had been trusted with a James Bond movie. He also uses in a flawless manner the combination of documentary clips cut and edited together with filmed fiction. The lead actors are not doing great service to the movie, but we can see a progress and less stiff acting than in previous films. It is with the supporting roles that the good surprises appear, with the beautiful and exotic in the Cuban episode, and the French stars and giving style and credibility to the French episode of the action. It is in the humor of dialogs and situations, in the use of music (composed by Maurice Jarre) and in the creative games of colors that we find some of the Hitchcock touch. Otherwise, we can just enjoy a good action movie based on a Cold War story which has the merit to have been filmed at the time of the Cold War. Not a bad film, but not really one of the best Hitchcock films either.