In 1966, pairing up Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in an Alfred Hitchcock film must have sounded like a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, TORN CURTAIN serves up only an occasional spark of chemistry between the two.
Newman is Michael Armstrong, a professor in Copenhagen for an international physics conference (I know, sounds exciting so far, right!?).
At his side is his assistant and fiance Sarah (Andrews). When Sarah catches Michael behaving a bit strangely and then he suddenly decides he's making a side trip, she follows him with disastrous results.
There is plenty of intrigue, talk about formulas for a missile defense system and sneaking about, but its one of Hitchcock's more lifeless films. Newman and Andrews don't click together and he seems a bit bored by the whole affair. Newman's strength on screen was always the underlying humor and smirk behind those eyes and he's not allowed to bare even a flash of it here.
There are two great sequences. Hitch said that he wanted to show how hard it would be to really murder someone. It's on full display during a long sequence on a farm in which Michael and a woman from the underground try to take out Michael's handler. It ends up with them dragging his head into a gas oven. Its brutal, realistic and you can see Hitchcock's classic camera angles and staging tricks in play.
The second classic scene is an opera near the conclusion, with Michael and Sarah in attendance waiting for their escape between acts while police and enemy agents fill the theatre. Nice suspense and acting from all.
The music score by John Addison is horrible. Upbeat and perky when its not mimicking a military march, its wrong in almost every scene and even more tragic when you realize that Universal made Hitch throw out the score that Bernard Herrmann had written for the film and hire Addison instead. It caused a riff between Hitchcock and Herrmann and they never worked together again.
By turns boring and mildly entertaining, TORN CURTAIN is a rare misfire from Hitch that gets a C.