Torn Curtain (1966) – reviewed by George

Alfred Hitchcock’s 51st film has a lot to offer. The title refers to the Iron Curtain, and not exactly tearing it down, but at least punching a few holes in it, are Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. The film is very disquieting almost from the get-go. In Norway a cruiseship is moving through the Osterfjord. On board the heating system has gone out, and everyone is freezing. Dr. Sarah Sherman (Julie) and Professor Michael Armstrong (Paul), both on their way to a scientific meeting where they will represent the U.S. Interspace Committee, have solved the problem by staying in bed and making love. But in their conversation we learn that he did not want her to come on this trip, and he is doing some complex (read “Secret”) work for someone. She is beginning to see some of this, but is still very much in the dark.
On land he picks up a book at a specific book store, and tells her he’s leaving for Stockholm right after lunch, and she gapes: he is supposed to make his big speech that night at the scientific meeting. He says this is more important, and tells a complicated lie, and then, seeing that she is still demanding answers, he breaks up with her, rather cruelly. She leaves him to purchase a ticket back to New York, and a casual question lets her know that he is not going to Stockholm, but to East Berlin – behind the Iron Curtain. So she gets a ticket on his flight. And in the air he spots her and storms at her, “When we land you take the next flight out – anywhere! Go home!”
When they land, he is assigned a personal guard, a gum-chewing man named Gromek (Wolfgang Kieling). And now we understand (though we don’t really believe it of Paul Newman), he is defecting.
There are some excellent suspense sequences: on a farm where Mort Mills and Carolyn Conwell play the farmer and his wife (on Michael’s side), in an interview/inquisition of Michael by a group of Communist scientists including Professor Lindt (Ludwig Donath), the man he has come all this way to see, in a bar where they are helped by Countess Kuchinska (Lila Kedrova), but especially on a bus trip from East Berlin to the west presided over by Mr. Jacobi (David Opatoshu). The obstacles that must be overcome on the bus trip make up the very best part of the film.
Others who help: Dr. Koska (Gisela Fischer), and Professor Hengstrom (Peter Bourne) who is Michael’s friend; and others who hinder: a sinister PO’d ballerina (Tamara Toumanova), and Professor Manfred (Gunter Strack) who could be good, but isn’t. And there’s a truly horrific murder that was supposed to show how hard it is to kill a man without using a gun. I think Hitch made his point.
Great movie: I really loved it, especially after “Marnie”.
Music by John Addison, Written by Brian Moore, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

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