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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hitchcock Month - Foreign Correspondent

Foreign Correspondent (1940)
Starring Joel McCrea and Laraine Day
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Foreign Correspondent isn't a perfect film, but this early Hitchcock flick (which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in the same year that Hitch's Rebecca took the prize) is an acceptable venture from the director which showcased his keen visual eye and his ability to create some nifty large-scale set pieces.

A newspaper editor in New York City sends budding reporter Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) over to England to be the paper's new foreign correspondent.  While there, he attends a peace rally where he meets a lovely woman, Carol Fisher (Laraine Day), and her father, Stephen, the latter of whom has invited Dutch diplomat Van Meer to speak at the conference.  When Van Meer doesn't show, Jones begins to suspect some wrongdoing.  His suspicions are confirmed when Jones travels to Amsterdam to cover a political conference and Van Meer, a proponent of trying to find a peaceful solution to the impending World War II, is assassinated on the steps of a city building.  Who is Van Meer's assailant, why did someone want him killed?

Foreign Correspondent works best when it sticks in the political thriller realm.  Hitchcock has crafted at least three visual set pieces that both further the story and are appealing to the eyes.  The assassination scene (and the set-up and conclusion of it) is beautifully realized.  Set on a rain-soaked street, umbrellas never appeared so ominous.  Also rather thrilling is a scene set-up at a creaky Dutch windmill.  Nerve-wracking and tense, this scene was certainly a precursor to his work in classics like North by Northwest.  And while I'd love to discuss the final set piece that won me over, it came as quite a surprise to me and I don't want to spoil it for anyone else.  Needless to say, I was quite impressed by the special effects on display.

Unfortunately, the film falters on a few levels.  First, it takes a long time to get started.  About 25 minutes in, not much had happened.  I was actually dreading the remainder of the flick, but it certainly turned things around.  Also disappointing is the romance that blossoms much too quickly between Johnny and Carol.  Even by 1940s standards, their whirlwind courtship is laughable.  Additionally, the film does date itself by tacking on an epilogue that urges Americans to contribute to the war effort and playing "The Star Spangled Banner" in patriotic fashion.  Nothing against patriotism in the slightest, but this definitely dates the film.

Still, Foreign Correspondent was much better than I expected and was certainly a showcase for Hitchcock to hone his craft.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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