Alfred Hitchcock will forever be the king of suspense and Torn Curtain proves to be another feather in his cap. Initially, the press was less than glowing in their reviews of TC. Prior to this film, North By Northwest was Hitchcock's latest cinematic achievement. Expecting the same type of film, the critics misunderstood and did a disservice to another great chapter in Hitchcock history. Torn Curtain takes place in the Cold War Era of the 1960's. A young American Scientist, Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) and his assistant/Fiancée Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews) end up behind the Iron Curtain, peddling advanced American Military secrets to the East Germans, in an attempt to foster World Peace. In true Hitchcock fashion, all is not as it seems and Armstrong and Sherman become embroiled in espionage and a race to the border that could cost them their lives. Torn Curtain, is an intense politically driven thriller that was too smart for it's time but poignant and definitely current when it was released. If you haven't seen TC, it's definitely one that lives up to it's director's name.
The audio for Torn Curtain is presented in a Dolby 2.0 mono platform. Not very exciting or engaging, it does the best it can for the film. John Addison's soaring score and incidental music create an atmosphere so tense that it's tangible. While you do get the feeling intended, it would have been better served by a 5.1 platform. The dialogue was clear and it's presentation was clean and easily understood.
The video is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that shows it's age but presents a clean and sharp image for a 35-year old film. The colors are crisp and the visuals are all first-rate. Other than a scratch here and there in the print, it's an amazing transfer.
A very neat treat Universal added is a Hitchcock only opening montage that covers most of his films. It's very well produced and a great thematic addition to an already first-rate disc.
Torn Curtain Rising is a 32-minute behind the scenes look at the making of Torn Curtain. In this wholly narrated segment, we are introduced to Hitchcock's style of filmmaking as well as his reservations in working with both Julie Andrews and Paul Newman. Namely, he didn't want Andrews because he didn't feel her right for the part and his problems with Newman stemmed from Newman's and Hitchcock's problems with the script. Filled with backstage information, publicity stills, the original ending as well as scenes edited for time and content, this segment is jam packed with insightful information on the making of a truly great film. One of the more gruesome elements and probably the most memorable scene is the death of Gromek. It's an incredibly tense portion that is dissected and addressed from every angle in this segment. Great information. Definitely one of the better behind-the-scenes portions on any disc I've reviewed thus far.
Scenes Scored by Composer Bernard Hermann
Hitchcock was known among other things for changing writers & composers at the drop of a hat should the feel not fit the film. Such was the case with TC. Bernard Hermann originally scored the film with incredibly intense orchestrations that really fit the storyline. However, Hitchcock didn't like the feel of those scenes and out went his orchestration and in came John Addison. Two of the entries are the opening title sequence and the Death of Gromek. Both tremendously changed by the varied audio treatment given per conductor. Having seen both, I have to say, I liked both versions. And that is one of the things that made Hitchcock so incredibly good at what he did. He chose the best and worked with it and the end result was a masterpiece.
Production Photographs and a poster and Photo gallery for the film
Very self-explanatory. Various stills and shots used both backstage and for publicity are presented with Addison's score overplaying the presentation.
Production Notes, Cast and Filmmaker bios and the film's Theatrical trailer
All but the trailer are statically presented and as usual full of fairly dull information or a re-stating of the information already presented. The film's trailer was shot in full frame and was fairly grainy and poorly presented visually.
Torn Curtain is a great Hitchcock entry that was a joy to experience. Watching the elements unfold on the screen had me at the edge of my seat for the full 2 hours 8minutes it took this film to tell it's story. All I can say is Alfred Hitchcock and that really says the rest! Intense film, that hasn't lost a lick in it's 35-years in circulation. Great suspense and great execution. I can't recommend it enough.