Topaz - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Topaz Reviews

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November 3, 2017
Topaz should appeal to those who like intricate, Cold War spy thrillers, but not to those who prefer action. It is one of Hitchcock's weaker efforts, at the end of his career. The biggest problem seems to come from trying to stuff so much from Leon Uris' big novel into a standard-length film. It is clunky at times and, while sustaining an interesting level of suspense, does not sustain dramatic interest nor rise to the dramatic occasions that the story presents. There are some excellent scenes, but some pedestrian ones as well. While watching the film it occurred to me that some of Hitchcock's techniques that had worked so well in earlier years seemed to fall flat. And does anybody know why he declined to use box-office stars in the film? Forsythe, Piccoli and Noiret are excellent, but in rather small roles.
½ July 30, 2017
Whatever Hitchcock is doing experimentally has more to do with his work ethic than what shows up on screen. It may be that he was shooting improvisational as compared to his extreme early planning, but the result was fairly conventional, straightforward, maybe even 'mature,' all likely because of the aforementioned. Hitch's stylized shooting comes from camera setups that are designed months in advance, while here he shoots new pages that are written just a few days before, making up shots as he goes, resulting in safe shots that get basic coverage and hardly surprise the audience; it's actually surprisingly unsurprising. But the editing is masterful, building tension from simplicity, with great acting to fill in the rest. It has unusual movement with how it jumps around - at one moment, Devereaux is revealing microfilm in a book, the next, Nordstrom is popping his head into Devereaux's home, who is right behind him. Russia, America, Cuba, France -- like any good spy movie, it moves around. The ending is inexcusably abrupt and hurts an otherwise satisfying experience.
July 16, 2017
Just watched the movie on TCM. Much better than 3 stars in my opinion. But the ending was a little unsatisfying. The French spy/double agent should have defected instead of shooting himself.
October 1, 2016
It's a shame to go into a film by a director with a massive, amazing career and reputation and knowing that this particular film isn't regarded well. I put off seeing Topaz for years, and I'm not sure why now seeing it: it's not a terrible film or an embarrassment. It even has some very good things to say about it. But I can see why the reputation came with it as it did: it's Hitchcock's longest film at 143 minutes, and there's times dialog doesn't exactly bog the movie down as much as it *sounds* like movie dialog, it doesn't always have the natural flow as it does in other Hitchcock films. Does it need to be 'lighter'? Of course not. But when there's this much exposition and the characters are mostly meant to move the pieces along, the charm and excitement found in other works by this director - outside of the technique, when it was down to a great script and great actors making it a combination - the depletion of quality can be felt.

To say some positive things: Hitchcock at this stage still has a grip on set pieces, and the opening is terrific. It's mostly done without much dialog, if at all, as characters are following other characters, others then notice they're being followed, subtle little things happen like the knocking over of a glass doll, and always the camera and editing make this kinetic while calling just enough attention (i.e. that first shot after the credits where the camera pirouettes, or I should say the zoom lens, from a view into a small window/mirror to the actors leaving a building and then following).

And certain individual shots and moments, like seeing exposition happening but not hearing it (we don't have to hear it, of course), or a couple of key over-head shots in a set-piece involving a man having to kill someone he doesn't want to but has no choice left... I mean, there are moments where it's hard not to get the 'Hitch gives on a spine-tingling sensation).

Oh, and I must point out John Vernon, easily the best consistent part of the movie acting-wise; it's interesting that a white guy who clearly shouldn't be playing a Cuban doesn't show that it's miscast. He completely sold me on this character of this Castro acolyte and makes him intimidating and on occasion soulful. I thought he'd only be in one scene and when I saw he'd be a key antagonist, I was thrilled.

I think even the story itself, when you look at structurally how it's laid out and the little twists and turns it takes, is compelling enough to keep attention, or at the least it's not unwatchable. I think what hurts this is that most of the other actors, even John Forsyth, who worked with Hitch before, are flat and especially so with Frederick Stafford.

On the DVD extras Leonard Maltin may say he's a "good" actor, but I'm not so sure. Maybe in material that wouldn't require so much, if it just was a part that asked for swagger or a little 007-rip-off charm, then fine. Here, this is a character that should have a little complexity even as the straight-man lead spy. Dany Robin is alright too, but not given much to do; I thought it interesting that the writer Samuel Taylor tried to put in some comment on infidelity in the film with this couple, but it gets lost in the scope of this plot.

I might have been even kinder and found this to be a good movie instead of just fairly decent (and, yes, one of the lessor Hitchcock films... which still means it's *not bad*, I need to emphasize that), if it had a strong ending. It's now some film history that there are alternate endings, yet I got the wrong impression from one of the books I read and thought this ended with the duel set-piece (which makes sense, as this needs a final confrontation between the two characters involved in this). I should only comment on how this *does* end, but that sucks so I'll review briefly these alternate endings: the 'duel' one is conceptually brilliant, but I think the lack of the director on set (he had to be called away before it could be shot so a producer stepped in to shoot it) can still be felt despite the storyboarding; the 'airport' ending, which is different than what is on the DVD of this full director's cut, is actually amusing in the way that maybe the rest of the film isn't, but it works well in a way that's unexpected in giving a big shot of ambiguity.

And then there's the third ending, which was screened in the shorter 127 minute prints on its original release, where a character goes and kills himself after receiving some troubling news. This looks awkward, but there's a brief montage showing everyone who died in the line of all of this espionage and that, superimposed over a newspaper headline about the missile crisis being over, is extremely affecting and effective. It almost shouldn't feel earned, but that is a good little gut punch at the end of all of this.

So, I don't know. None of them are completely satisfying, but it turns out to be a case of there not being a sufficient ending, which is a problem. All the same, Topaz isn't some disaster, and isn't as boring as you've heard. It's simply part of that weak period someone this filmmaker fell into after (the underrated) Marnie and his last hurrah in true diabolical fashion with Frenzy.
½ July 29, 2016
WARNING:May Contain Spoilers

This is the worst movie I've ever seen and that's coming from a big hitchcock fan. The plotline's impossible to follow, the acting is terrible and there's a bunch of random violence. I can't stand this movie and I'm never watching it again. The ending makes no sense either.
½ July 22, 2016
Hitchcock's most underrated film is a movie you have to watch more than once to notice the Hitchcock elements. His best film since Psycho, but surely not the best of his films post-Psycho, which would either be Frenzy or Family Plot.
July 18, 2016
Another propaganda film by Hitchcock, following "Torn Curtain". Compared to its predecessor, "Topaz" is less probable, less effortless and definitely inferior. Yet, it is reflective of Hitchcock's finesse and style and makes for an engrossing viewing.
½ December 13, 2015
This is one of the few late Hitchcock films I hadn't seen, on it was the only of his last 17 movies. It's a weaker effort, and it is too long, actually it's his longest film. There are still flourishes from him that make it worth a watch, and I'd rather see a lesser Hitchcock film, than most other movies. Give it a try, decide for yourself!
October 25, 2015
not one of Hitchcock's best efforts but still watchable
½ October 18, 2015
a good cold war movie by the master of suspence much better in widescreen and blueray.
½ August 18, 2015
A slow and occasionally tense political thriller.
August 14, 2015
TOPAZ, based on a novel of the same name by Leon Uris, was Hitchcock's second (and final) foray into the Cold War, and is about a French agent who gets caught in between the Americans and the Russians. By this point in his career, Hitchcock was quite content to plagiarize himself, as a lot of elements in TOPAZ can be found in his other (better) films, but I did find this to be a slight improvement over his previous effort, TORN CURTAIN. Without the star power behind this as was in TORN CURTAIN, TOPAZ's story, as labyrinthine and convoluted as it is, is brought to the foreground. As always, Hitch's use of camera-work and editing to create suspense is as evident here as it is throughout most of his other work. The sequence which stood out the most to me was a prolonged, mostly silent scene in which a Martinique agent gains access to a hotel where he will get some documents important to the plot, all while his French contact watches from the other side of the street. There was also a just-before-death confession reminiscent of one in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, and an exquisitely filmed death scene in which a woman's purple dress fills most of the screen. Still, the plot this time was a bit unwieldy. As there weren't any stars in the film, there wasn't as much focus in the story as I would have liked. At first you think it will be about some Russian defectors, later American NATO agents, and then it settles on a French NATO agent who works on behalf of the Americans to get some information on Russian activities in Cuba. Although it will probably benefit from watching it a few more times, on first viewing it was a lot of take in and keep track of. Still, the complicatedness of it all allowed for some interesting double and triple-dealings. From an acting standpoint, I thought that most of the performances were rather wooden. Considering that this is perhaps the most talkative Hitchcock movie I've seen so far, it was a little difficult to watch in that regard. Still, it wasn't all bad. John Forsythe (THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY) had a supporting role as an American NATO agent, and he did fine. And even though badly miscast, John Vernon did alright for himself as Cuban Rico Parra. Switching composers again, Maurice Jarre provided the score, and while not in the same league as Bernard Herrmann (after all, who is?), his cues and main theme set the tone of the film quite nicely with some occasionally quirky touches. The title sequence, set over a Russian parade, also had a stirring martial quality that perfectly set the mood for the tense opening scene. Overall, I would say that TOPAZ has more immediate entertainment value than did TORN CURTAIN, although the plot is more complicated and the acting isn't as good. Still, TOPAZ is as eloquently produced as anything Hitchcock laid his hands on and provides enough thrills to balance out the long running time.
½ April 5, 2015
A far more competent cold war thriller than Hitchcock's previous film, succeeds both as hard-boiled espionage tale in the Le Carré vein and domestic drama and mixes the two elements together well.
February 24, 2015
Based on the 1967 Cold War novel by Leon Uris, the film is about a French intelligence agent who becomes entangled in the Cold War politics of the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and later the breakup of an international Russian spy ring in France. The story is closely based on the 1962 Sapphire Affair, which involved the head of French Intelligence SDECE in the United States. Once again Hitchcock shows off his versatility as a director with this political thriller. Although one of Hitchcock's weaker films, its still quite a decent film, sadly the atmosphere isn't here, but it does feature solid performances and a solid script. The films running time is slightly too long, sadly this slow burn thriller drags in places mainly caused by the pacing and trying to string the films run time to over 2 hours.
October 23, 2014
One of Alfred Hitchcock's final films, I wanted to see Topaz to witness what point his career had reached towards the end of it all.

As Alfred Hitchcock's previous spy thriller Torn Curtain had not really peaked my fancy, I didn't have the highest expectations for Topaz. The film follows a very similar premise, dealing with soviet agents and defection set around Copenhagen. It is a familiar film, familiar of a film I was not particularly fond of, and so it is set up to be a troubled affair for me. Eventually it steps it up, but it still begs for comparison.
Topaz feels like a slightly more involved personal story than Torn Curtain, but it nevertheless incurs a lot of the flaws that Torn Curtain suffered through. The pace of it all is very slow, and it runs at an extensive length as well so viewers are really going to need involvement in the tale for it to be engaging. The central problem outside of all this was that it didn't break new ground. Alfred Hitchcock's films are usually iconic steps in cinema, and even Torn Curtain was a take on a genre new to him. Topaz is largely a film that treads old ground, and while it serves as an improvement over Torn Curtain, it still doesn't stand out as one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films.
It is a lot more atmospheric than Torn Curtain however because there is less talking and more storytelling. Although the scale of the film is still larger than many of Alfred Hitchcock's films, it remains more interesting and involving with the characters in the tale. This doesn't mean it is perfect because there are still a large amount of scenes with extensive periods of nothing but dialogue to them, but they are of a lesser quantity and make way more for the story to proceed forward. The atmosphere of the film is very good because it makes use of Alfred Hitchcock's signature eye for strong cinematography consistently over the course of the film as well as being enhanced by Academy Award winner Maurice Jarre's terrific musical score. The atmosphere of the film is tense but is subtle in how it does it with a lot of implications of forthcoming plot dynamics as the source of its occurrence. The cinematography also works at capturing a lot of beautiful scenery in the film which establishes the Cuban context of the story as being very legitimate.
But despite all of its best intentions, visual elements and subtext, Topaz still succumbs to many of the same flaws as Torn Curtain. Its story is slightly more engaging and has more thrills, but it still comes off as being rather dull. The screenplay has some strong dialogue to it, but it comes up short in terms of characters because it is another film focused on the bigger picture. The bigger picture is only mildly interesting, and it is a picture which has already been covered by Alfred Hitchcock himself. The film provides a step forward for him in terms of spy thrillers and tales of espionage, but it also serves as a reminder that the genre is not his game. He does what he can and manages to take the film a long way on a very small budget, but the premise is simply not interesting enough to sufficiently sustain itself over the course of the 143 minute running time. Topaz ends up having some good scenes, but they are not tied together well enough for the film to have solid functioning as a whole.
Topaz does prove to benefit from a strong cast though.
Upon its original release in 1969, there was a lot of criticism for the casting of Fredrick Stafford in the leading role. I really didn't see it as much of a problem because I found that he did a good enough job. His performance maintained a nice level of sophistication to it, and considering that the film was an espionage thriller where protagonist Andre Devereux would have to keep his cool the entire time and have a strong level of subtlety to keep his secrets within. I found that his involvement in the character wasn't wooden as many critics claimed and rather that he stood confident in the part with the appropriate amount of subtlety and wit to it. Frederick Stafford is a charming lead in Topaz because he deals with all the material with a sense of wisdom which works as the driving force to his determination in the tale. He makes a decent case in the lead, and while he may not have the charisma of some of Alfred Hitchcock's greater lead actors such as Cary Grant or James Stewart, he makes a name for himself by delivering a solid leading performance in Topaz, engaging with the other actors with a natural level of spirit and secretive sense of determination to him. His leading performance is even greater than Paul Newman's from Torn Curtain in my opinion which is a fair call.
Dany Robin also does her part for the film. She has a lot of beauty to her which makes her a nice sight in the part, but she also puts a lot of spirit into her role. Although her performance fails to deliver the power of Julie Andrews in Torn Curtain, her presence is welcome. She is less subtle in her part than Fredrick Stafford which is positive because it means she does a strong job conveying the stressful status of a character in her situation. She puts an easy level of humanity into her part which makes her role an easily sympathetic one, and her chemistry with Frederick Stafford is strong.

So Topaz is a step up for Alfred Hitchcock in the spy thriller genre due to having a strong visual style, a lot of atmosphere and a skilled cast, but it suffers from the same slow pace, extensive length and sense of repetition that hindered his previous effort on Torn Curtain and fails to serve as one of his superior films.
½ September 3, 2014
Hitchcock makes his second Cold War thriller in a row, this time without even a star like Paul Newman to headline and make it mildly worthwhile. Hitchcock was such a capable filmmaker that this film isn't a total loss. Well photographed and staged, the film suffers from a weak script, few engaging characters, not many memorable moments, and a fairly forgettable cast. "Torn Curtain" may not have been the best film, and Newman and Andrews may not have had strong chemistry, but at least Newman can lead a one really leads this one well...and it just feels like a lesser film near the end of Hitchcock's long and sturdy career. The film is also far too long and padded with useless scenes that don't mesh with the whole story of the film.
August 3, 2014
wow.....fantastic.....amazing.....brilliant.....i have just seen this movie 4 the 1st time n think that this is such a brilliant movie 2 watch....its got a good cast of actors/actressess throughout this movie......i think that frederick stafford (.R.I.P.), dany robin (.R.I.P.), john vernon (.R.I.P.), karin dor, michel piccoli, play good roles/parts throughout this movie......i think that the director of this action/adventure/mystery/suspense/thriller movie had done a great job of directing this movie because you never know what 2 expect throughout this movie........i think that this is such a brilliant movie 2 watch.,.....


Like his previous films Rope and The Trouble with Harry, Hitchcock intended the film to be an experiment for whether colours, predominately red, yellow and white, could be used to reveal and influence the plot. He later admitted that this did not work out.

i think that this is such a really well written/acted/directed movie 2 watch its got a great cast throughout this movie.......

Hitchcock cameo

Hitchcock's signature cameo appearance occurs 27 minutes into the film, at the airport: he is seated in a wheelchair as he is being pushed by a nurse. She stops, and he nonchalantly stands and greets a man, proceeding to walk off screen with him.

its got a good soundtrack throughout this movie.......i think that this is such a cult classics movie 2 watch......its such a really well written/acted/directed movie 2 watch its got a brilliant cast throughout this movie......i think that this is such a brilliant movie 2 watch it is an absolutley brilliant movie 2 watch......

The plot is based on the real-life Sapphire Affair of 1962.
The film begins with a Russian KGB agent defecting along with his wife and daughter. It was based on that of Anatoliy Golitsyn.[citation needed]
André Devereaux was based on French agent Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli of the SDECE.
"Juanita de Cordoba" is loosely based on Castro's sister Juanita Castro who defected to the U.S.[citation needed]
The red-haired army captain known as "Hernandez" is based on Manuel Piñeiro.[citation needed]
Fidel Castro makes an uncredited appearance in the film along with Che Guevara. While in Cuba, Deveraux attends a Castro rally in order to keep up the appearance of his official cover, that of a French trade attaché. The film spliced in actual footage of a real Castro rally of the era to add to the realism, though Castro himself is not heard speaking.
The French title is L'Étau (English: [bench] vice, stranglehold), to avoid any reference to Topaze, a well-known 1951 French opus by Marcel Pagnol starring Fernandel and Yvette Etiévant. In the French script, the topaz gemstone is replaced by "l'opale" (opal).[citation needed

i think that this is such a fantastic movie 2 watch its so really well written/acted/directed movie 2 watch it is an absolutley thrilling movie 2 watch its got a great cast throughout this movie.....

Filming locations

Topaz was filmed on location in West Germany, Copenhagen, Paris, New York City, and Washington, DC,

i think that this is such a great hitchcock movie 2 watch its such a brilliant classics movie 2 watch with a great cast throughout this movie........
April 23, 2014
Topaz is yet another convincing suspense drama from the Master himself. Many aspects of the movie are very memorable, and the performances are all on-par.
March 11, 2014
What to say about this film without bad-mouthing one of the greatest film makers of all time? Let me be kind and say that is very much of it's time, though if one had any interest in the Cuban missile crisis before watching, their appetite will be greatly diminished after, not by what one learns but through witnessing one of the least exciting, plodding films old Hitch ever put to film. The script (biggest culprit for films problems) is bland beyond belief and is a total wonder why it ever got picked up (slim pickings?) with it's total lack of any real tension, uninspired dialogue, uninteresting characters or memorable scenes, couple that with some quite poor acting at times and some slightly sloppy editing. It's just so not what we love about the masters work and probably would now be almost forgotten if made by another, less well known and less respected director.
March 8, 2014
Topaz takes its inspiration from the real-life Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War setting of the time, but while displaying Hitchcock's flair for telling compelling thrillers at times, the screenplay and source material feels jumbled and the film ends up overloaded and convoluted. Could have been simplified, but not outright unwatchable.
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