18 March 2009

Hitchcock | Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Foreign Correspondent (1940)
written by Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison, James Hilton, Robert Benchley and an uncredited Ben Hecht

Is it me, or was ffolliott -- the British reporter played by the devilish George Sanders -- the true hero of this story? He's always way ahead of our presumed protagonist Jones. He's aware that Fisher is a traitor associating with the evil Krug long before Jones figures it out. Once he and Jones agree to work together, it's ffolliott who pushes the investigation along. He's also the man of action in the picture: he boldly bluffs Fisher in his own home and he risks his neck to save both Van Meer and his country (and ends up diving out of a window for his trouble). All of this, and he's always quick with a quip.

I think this film has the worst romance of any Hitchcock movie to date. I don't buy Joel McCrea and Laraine Day as a couple. I think part of the problem was that their relationship was, for the most part, just a tacked-on side story. They didn't really have a lot of time to develop it onscreen. It may be a cultural gap on my part. Some of the ways they were acting were plain confusing to me, watching this seven decades later. I'm never going to like these "instant marriage proposals" that seem to be common in classic films. Did audiences back then insist on seeing their onscreen couples get engaged as well as simply becoming a couple?

One bit about their relationship I completely did not understand was when Carol became angry after Jones ordered a second room in the hotel they were hiding out at. Why was she so upset? Isn't ordering a second room the honorable thing to do? Wasn't she previously angry when people saw her with a bathrobe-clad Jones in her bedroom? Remind me never to get romantically involved with anyone should I ever time travel to this era.

Foreign Correspondent has some excellent Hitchcock-style action in it. Particularly good was the entire plane crash sequence near the end. The editing as the plane dove into the water gave us some of that delicious suspense that was mostly missing from Rebecca. We also get a nice car chase, a surprisingly gruesome (for 1940) murder, a torture scene (ending with the aforementioned defenestration) and two games of cat and mouse with three different assassins. Even if I don't care for the protagonist too much, this is a fun Hitchcock movie oft overlooked. (7/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Warner Bros. in 2004. The transfer's great -- as expected for a Warner classics release -- and it comes with a nice documentary.