Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Hitchcock should have stuck to suspense and given the spy stories a pass. With this and with Torn Curtain before it, he never really seemed to have a handle on the material. It’s adapted from a novel by Leon Uris, and concerns spies from America (John Forsythe, the only real “name” in the cast) and France in the days leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s amazing how unimportant all that seems in retrospect, though I know it was scary as hell at the time, and maybe the closest we’ve ever come to nuclear war. But the story just doesn’t convey any of that fear. It is, frankly, boring as hell. I didn’t give a damn about any of the wooden characters. There are almost no signs that this was made by Hitchcock, other than an extended scene with no dialogue, where we watch Roscoe Lee Browne talking and gesturing behind a big glass window. There is no tension, no suspense. I kept expecting an action scene, but there is hardly any action except for a brief chase in Harlem outside the cheap hotel where Castro’s people are staying to show their solidarity with the people. And the ending … oh dear, the ending. There are in fact three endings on the DVD, which I always take as an indication that the writer and director don’t really have a handle on the material. One involves a duel. That’s right, a duel, in a huge empty stadium, pistols-at-dawn sort of thing. In nineteen-friggin’-sixty-two! The ending they went with was not much better. The bad guy, the mole they have finally winkled out by simply refusing to sit down with him, boards a plane while our French hero boards another. They wave at each other. They smile. The end. How could anyone have thought this was a satisfying ending? This is one of Hitchcock’s worst films, You have to go way back in his career to find anything as awful as this. And sadly, he would only live to make two more. Thank heavens one of then was Frenzy.