Torn Curtain has had something of a bad press over the years – rumours of a tense production shoot because Hitch wanted Cary Grant and Tippi Hedren in the leads rather than Newman and Andrews, accusations of a lack of chemistry between the stars – but it is a fairly tense political thriller with some characteristic Hitchcock touches, notably the lengthy death scene in real time and without musical flourishes, and a sequence in a theatre which harks back to The 39 Steps or The Man Who Knew Too Much.
To my eyes, Newman (as the scientist turned supposed defector to East Germany) and Andrews (as his fiancée) are excellent together and it is clear they did get on during the filming, their scenes together having the right balance of sexy banter in the early bedtime close-ups and mounting unease as the double-dealing plot develops. It’s an unusual film for both, giving Newman a chance to shine in a role which doesn’t just require his usual Method charm, and Andrews to do something a little different to Mary Poppins or the Sound of Music.
There is also an excellent John Addison score which doesn’t overwhelm the action or undermine the plot as it unfolds. This is a better film than Topaz which suffered from poor casting and a lumbering plot which goes nowhere. Torn Curtain has an element of real suspense and danger which keeps us watching.