Topaz (1969)

topaz poster 1969 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Looks good, decent cast


Movie Info

Movie Name: Topaz

Studio: Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

Genre(s): Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  December 19, 1969

MPAA Rating: PG

topaz roscoe lee browne john vernon

I don’t know where he went to spy school, but he’s not being very inconspicuous

French diplomat André Devereaux (Frederick Stafford) has been pulled into a plot by the Americans to determine what is going on in Cuba.  As the Cold War escalates, rumors of missiles being brought in are confirmed by a Soviet defector, but the Americans need more proof.  Travelling to Cuba for the information, André finds himself at risk as the secret must be uncovered…but rumors of an organization call Topaz could cut even deeper.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Topaz is a Cold War espionage thriller.  Following Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain in 1966, the film is an adaptation of Leon Uris’s 1967 novel and based on the events of the Sapphire Affair.  The film was released to mostly positive reviews though it failed at the box office.  The original 127 minute theatrical cut had a different ending and later versions included a 143 minute revised cut by Alfred Hitchcock.

Topaz is a very strange Alfred Hitchcock film sandwiched in with other Hitchcock movies near the end of his career.  While it is stylishly shot and features a strong cast, Topaz might be one of my least favorite Hitchcock films (or at least of his later films).

topaz cuban torture interrogation

Please…make this movie go faster

While the story takes its basis from Uris’s novel and the real events of the Sapphire affair, the story plods.  The movie dodges real events but also tries to nestle up in to the events preceding the Cuban missile crisis due to the accounts of Uris’s friend Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli who helped expose the plot which Uris fictionalized for his novel.  As a result, it doesn’t feel like it has a lot of Hitchcock touches to the film…instead it feels like a bland Cold War spy film.

The cast is fine, but it doesn’t have the hook that many of Hitchcock’s earlier films have with a strong leading female or a recognizable lead.  Frederick Stafford wasn’t as well-known as some of Hitchcock’s other stars and with Dany Robin and Karin Dor splitting the “Hitchcock female” role, it doesn’t feel like either was particularly developed.  John Forsyth was already a name at the time but is placed in a supporting role, and Roscoe Lee Browne plays the spy trying to gain access to the Harlem hotel.  John Vernon plays a decent Cuban military leader, but his plotline ends rather abruptly because of how the plot plays out.

topaz karin dor murder john vernon

That was a pretty decent ending…wait…we have 45 minutes left…ok

The movie looks pretty good with multiple location shoots, but filming in Cuba was obviously off limits.  The sequence in New York is rather interesting in that it involves the famed Hotel Theresa in Harlem where Fidel Castro famously stayed in 1960 after leaving a fancier hotel in protest.  Unfortunately, Hitchcock’s style rarely surfaces in this picture though some scenes (like Dor’s death shows his style and looks fantastic).

Topaz is a film that took me a few sittings to get through.  It feels like there is a taut thriller in Topaz, but the film that was made isn’t it.  It is too episodic and doesn’t seem to have much flow.  Despite this, Topaz still is better than a lot of other similar films being made at the time…but it does hurt in that Hitchcock was winding down when it was made.  You watch Topaz and wish it was better.  Hitchcock followed Topaz with Frenzy in 1972.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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