Classic Film Guide

Torn Curtain (1966)

Alfred Hitchcock produced and directed this film (written by Brian Moore); it's a Cold War thriller that hardly does (thrill, that is), and barely resembles the director's other works excepting one scene in which he succeeds by showing how difficult it is to "kill a man". Having two of the day's hottest stars, Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, and running on for more than 2 hours didn't help it. The cast also includes Lila Kedrova (who'd just won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Zorba the Greek (1964)), Hansjörg Felmy, ballerina Tamara Toumanova in one of her few movie roles, Wolfgang Kieling (who was to play twins in the original script) as the villainous security bodyguard, Ludwig Donath, Günter Strack, Gisela Fischer, Mort Mills, and Liv Ullmann-lookalike Carolyn Conwell.

Newman plays American nuclear scientist Professor Michael Armstrong, Andrews his assistant and fiancée Sarah Sherman. Armstrong (in a sense) feigns defection to continue working on a project of his that was cancelled by the United States. In fact it had just stalled and he needed to pick the brain of a Russian named Lindt (Donath) who was behind the Iron Curtain. An East German professor (Strack) helps Armstrong make his passage, whereupon security chief Gerhard (Felmy) assigns Gromek (Kieling) to watch him and Sherman, who had followed her fiancé without knowing the ruse. When Armstrong contacts an amateur underground group named ‘pi’ (Mort Mills, playing a farmer), he and the farmer's wife (Conwell) have to kill Gromek in the aforementioned scene. Fischer plays a doctor & David Opatoshu (uncredited) plays a pi leader with a phony bus that help Armstrong and his now "in the know" fiancée with their escape. Kedrova plays (a deposed?) Countess Kuchinska, who also helps the couple, hoping her assistance will lead to their sponsorship, enabling her to leave the Communist state. Toumanova’s ballerina, who at first provided some comic relief - having been insulted at the attention paid to Armstrong vs. herself, ends up figuring in some last minute drama when she recognizes him during the escape. Clever use of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.

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