Torn Curtain

1966

Torn Curtain

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

68%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 25

53%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,097
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Torn Curtain Photos

Movie Info

A double agent has to contend with enemies on both sides of the political fence as well as the woman he loves in this thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Prof. Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) is an gifted American physicist who, at the height of the Cold War, decides to defect to East Germany. To his surprise, his fiancée, fellow scientist Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews) follows him, and she soon discovers Armstrong is no traitor, but acting as a secret undercover agent. As Armstrong attempts to ingratiate himself with political and scientific factions in East Germany, Gromek (Wolfgang Kieling) becomes his guide, though Armstrong is aware he's a government agent assigned to trail him, and as he tries to shake Gromek, Armstrong realizes his new "friend" knows what his real agenda happens to be. Torn Curtain was one of the rare Hitchcock films from his "classic" era which did not feature a score by Bernard Herrman; due to objections from his studio, Hitchcock removed Herrman from the project, though excerpts from the score he had begun were included as a bonus on the film's DVD release in 2002.

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Cast

Paul Newman
as Prof. Michael Armstrong
Julie Andrews
as Sarah Sherman
Lila Kedrova
as Countess Luchinska
Hansjörg Felmy
as Heinrich Gerhard
Ludwig Donath
as Prof. Gustav Lindt
Wolfgang Kieling
as Hermann Gromek
Günter Strack
as Prof. Karl Manfred
David Opatoshu
as Mr. Jacobi
Gisela Fischer
as Dr. Koska
Mort Mills
as Farmer
Carolyn Conwell
as Farmer's Wife
Frank Alberschal
as Factory Manager
Gloria Gorvin
as Fraulein Mann
Erik Holland
as Hotel Travel Clerk
Hedley Mattingly
as Airline Official
Peter Bourne
as Olaf Hengstrom
Peter Lorr
as Taxi Driver
Frank Aberschal
as Factory Manager
Alfred Hitchcock
as Man Holding Baby in Hotel Lobby
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Critic Reviews for Torn Curtain

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (8)

  • Much of the film is stunning.

    Aug 10, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Alfred Hitchcock's 1966 spy thriller has one of the lowest reputations of his late works. Coming after a masterpiece like Marnie, it almost had to be a disappointment. But Hitchcock was incapable of making an uninteresting film.

    Mar 20, 2012 | Full Review…
  • Hitchcock freshens up his bag of tricks in a good potpourri which becomes a bit stale through a noticeable lack of zip and pacing.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • An above-average quota of glaringly shaky process work; but at least one classic sequence of protracted violence in a farmhouse kitchen.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • In these times, with James Bonds cutting capers and pallid spies coming in out of the cold, Mr. Hitchcock will have to give us something a good bit brighter to keep us amused.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Dismissed by many as part of Hitchcock's regrettable declining years, Torn Curtain turns out to be a surprisingly tense and intimate spy thriller.

    Nov 5, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Torn Curtain

  • Mar 08, 2014
    "Torn curtain reveals another play; torn curtain, such an expose!" To turn off the Television, as the classy little title suggests, this ought to be quite the seductively intense thriller... up until you find out it's mostly a political "thriller". Well, it's a political thriller by Alfred Hitchcock, so a little bit of high tension is to be expected, even if the film does feature Julie Andrews. You've got to give Hitchcock a little bit of credit for sticking with certain stars from his English roots, and not going completely Hollywood, but come on, Hitch, it's hard to not get a little perked up when Andrews is around, even if her co-stars are people who have a tendency to make you think thriller. Oh my, Paul Newman in a political/legal thriller, now that is brand-spanking new... and I mean that seriously, because this film did come out well before "Absence of Malice" and "The Verdict". Wow, it's pretty amazing how Hitchcock did oh so very many films by the time he hit the 1960s, or at least it would be if he was a little more consistent with his thrillers' intrigue. No, this film is fine, but, if you'll forgive my slightly ambiguous reference towards actual torn curtains, there's only so much to keep light from shining on shortcomings, or, for that matter, the characters. Being so heavily driven by its characters, the film's characterization is layered in its depth, but through only so many moments, because in so many areas, the film feels a touch too underdeveloped for its own good, expecting you to place a fairly thorough understanding through certain developmental ambiguities, but ultimately slipping up on its intentions, even though there's something perhaps too recognizable about the characters and story here. Conventions are often subtle, yet they still stand firm enough to be undeniable as blows to the legs of momentum in this thriller, whose degree of predictability softens some bite in dramatic height within this formulaic narrative, and, quite frankly, doesn't need to be there. There's a decent potential for genuine uniqueness in this political espionage thriller that would have driven the final product's storytelling intrigue a long way, and sure, the execution of this story concept has its refreshing areas, but when the conventions are hit, they hit hard as a reflection of certain laziness. Needless to say, a sense of laziness isn't exactly helped by a questionable pace, for although underdevelopment certainly shaves off a couple of minutes in this almost 130-minute-long thriller, the final product is ultimately overlong, overdrawn with material that spaces out certain segments into unevenness, and isn't even dynamic enough to keep up tension, let alone structural focus. I don't know if the film is unfocused at times with all of its meanderings, but it's certainly aimless, dragging along, even on paper, with a sensitive potential for compellingness that Alfred Hitchcock, as director, shakes, quite frankly, bringing in the thriller to life in plenty of places, while blanding matters up in others with a sense of autopilot which reflects a sense of laziness. There's not much uniqueness or particular inspiration to Hitchcock's direction, and that would be fine if this thriller's juice was richer in other areas of storytelling, which is decent, with strong moments, but ultimately too under-inspired, when not overblown, for the final product to excel. Potential is lost, and reward value is with it, but the final product isn't exactly forgettable, meeting lazy areas with inspired areas, and ultimately crafting a decent interpretation of an intriguing story. As much as I complain about this film's being overlong in its execution, to tell you the truth, through all of the meanderings that Brian Moore plagues his screenplay with, I can see plenty of meat to meditate upon in this minimalist, but intriguing dramatic thriller, whose political intrigue and human weight blend organically and intelligently behind an at least conceptually layered study on morally questionable characters and biting political tension. There's plenty of potential to Willis Hall's and Keith Waterhouse's story concept, and Moore does it injustice in far too many places for it to be drawn into a truly rewarding final product, yet at the same time, Moore plays a big part in bringing this effort to the cusp of rewarding, through clever dialogue and some tight set pieces to keep you going in between the moments in which characterization proves to be well-rounded. Both undercooked and overdrawn, Moore's script has a glaring inconsistency to it that, if overcome, would have allowed reward value to be firmly secured, yet as things stand, the highlights in Moore's script are pretty solid in their distinguishing depth, further distinguished by a cast that is more consistently solid. Primarily subdued, this dramatic thriller offers only so much material for the esteemed cast to really play upon, yet when the performers are asked to bring things to life, they often go well beyond the call of the duty, and that especially goes for the leads, with the unevenly used Julie Andrews nailing emotional distraught as the love of a man endangered by disturbing misdeeds, while leading man Paul Newman combines his classic smooth charisma with light dramatic layers in order to deliver on a biting atmospheric performance. Well, perhaps Newman is simply playing Paul Newman, but the trademark effective lead presence, backed by a supporting cast rich with talents, - each one of whom stands out at one time or another - carries the film when Alfred Hitchcock isn't doing the job as well as he usually does. That being said, Hitchcock, as director, does get the film pretty far, albeit with a storytelling formula that was, at this point, too tired to be inspired enough to overshadow the underwhelmingness, but still had enough juice to draw a solid bit in the way of intrigue through an audacious attention to gritty detail, if not a thoughtful attention to dramatic layering that engages more than limps momentum out. There are a number of moments in this film that are pretty strong, and while they don't do a whole lot outside of frustrating by providing mere fleeting glimpses into what could have been, they still stand as worthwhile highlights in a drama that is generally engaging enough to serve the patient well with compellingness, however limited it may be by lazy aspects. When what remains of the curtain is drawn, bite is too obscured by developmental shortcomings, conventions, dragging and atmospheric cold spells to storytelling for the final product to truly reward, but an intriguing story concept is done enough justice by clever writing, solid acting and decent direction to make Alfred Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain" a reasonably entertaining and often compelling espionage thriller, even though it could have gone further. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 30, 2013
    Engaged couple Newman and Andrews are attending a scientific conference in Copenhagen when, out of the blue, he informs her he must fly to Sweden, forbidding her from accompanying him. When she discovers her fiancé is actually headed behind the Iron Curtain to East Germany, Andrews follows him only to discover he has defected. Secretly, however, Newman is a spy who plans to steal a formula relating to anti-missile rockets. Andrews agrees to also defect to be with Newman, who hasn't divulged his secret to her. The initial premise for 'Torn Curtain' came from Hitch himself, inspired by the defection of the British diplomats, Burgess and MacLean, to Soviet Russia. "What did Mrs MacLean think of the whole thing?" was the question he wished to examine. It may have begun as a clever premise but by the time production began, Hitch realized he had a turkey on his hands. Saddled with a dull, talky script and a lead actor whose "method" style was anathema to Hitch, the director found himself struggling to inject any life into the story. The film gets off to an interesting start as we see things from Andrews' point of view, unaware what her fiancé is really up to. Once the plot moves to East Germany it develops into a film that resembles a James Bond movie with the action set-pieces and gags removed, in other words, a tough slog. 'Torn Curtain' is, however, worth seeing for one standout scene alone. Newman is assigned a bodyguard, played menacingly by Kieling, who he manages to slip away from in order to rendezvous with a contact at a farm. After receiving instructions from the farmer, Newman finds himself in a farmhouse with the man's wife as Kieling unexpectedly shows up. With Kieling's suspicions aroused, Newman and the woman attempt to kill him, quietly so as not to alert the taxi driver waiting outside. The scene is one of the most gruesome in cinema history as a variety of farmhouse implements (a bowl of soup, a bread knife, and a shovel) are employed to take out Kieling who proves extremely difficult to kill. Eventually a gas oven nastily proves his undoing. The scene is masterfully shot and edited and is unaccompanied by music which lends it an extra level of realism. By having two characters who don't speak each other's language, Hitch is able to play the scene in a purely visual manner. After the poor performance of 'Marnie', the Universal heads were beginning to put pressure on Hitch to play by their terms. They wanted to appeal to a younger market and insisted the movie should have a jazzy, modern score. When composer Bernard Herrmann delivered a more traditional score, Hitch fired him, ending arguably the greatest relationship between a film-maker and a composer the cinema has ever known. His replacement was John Addison, who delivered a score more satisfying to the studio but unremarkable when compared to the Herrmann score which can be found as an extra on DVD/Blu-ray releases of the film, (Herrmann's opening theme is particularly impressive). 'Torn Curtain' was the first in a line of troublesome Hollywood productions for Hitch, marred by studio interference and a desire to keep up with trends. Were it not for a brief return to his native London for 'Frenzy', it would have been the beginning of a sad demise.
    The Movie W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 24, 2012
    It's unfortunate that a movie from Hitchcock that holds such promise fails so miserably to be even remotely interesting on any aspect. This overly long mess, features completly pointless scenes, poor acting from the leads, unsuspensful moments and a pretty uninspired story and script. Save from a couple of well pulled scenes and shots, it's a shame that this one doesn't feel like an Hitchcock at all.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer
  • Aug 22, 2012
    It has the feel of any Hitchcock film but seems empty. With Paul Newman starring as the new Cary Grant, you still have a strong protagonist but the story seems to fall flat at some point. It might be during the second half when desperation is at its best and the audience has to be put in a very uncomfortable situation. For any fan of the director, its still a passable entry but wont meet the high tier of films like Saboteur or North by Northwest.
    paul o Super Reviewer

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