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Sound is Torn Curtain’s most effective means of suspense. Chased by a German agent, Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) wanders through a marble museum, the only audible sound being the footsteps of both men. Their shoe’s volume and intensity indicate the necessary stress. It’s a fantastic sequence that’s pure Hitchcock by design.

A significant portion of Torn Curtain is also told in untranslated German dialect, another effective means of sound to convey how lost Armstrong is in this foreign land. Other times, dialog isn’t heard at all, following the cinematic “show, don’t tell” rule to its purest form. Torn Curtain relies on body language.

Torn Curtain becomes a movie of great moments trapped between a sluggishly paced international drama

When utilized correctly, the suspense in Torn Curtain works. Sadly, the rest of the film doesn’t. Julie Andrews plays Armstrong’s fiancee, a helpless femme fatale, and burden more than a character. With the Red Scare, a period of nuclear tension, and the Cold War, Torn Curtain utilizes a broad swatch of then contemporary politics as its base, although in the decades since, it’s outdated paranoia that no longer locks in viewers as it once did. Now Torn Curtain is a historical curiosity about one man’s attempt to infiltrate a tightly controlled Germany.

Torn Curtain becomes a movie of great moments trapped between a sluggishly paced international drama. A farmhouse fight is among Hitchock’s most desperate (and successful) action scenes, a drawn out brawl without any music and language barriers between Armstrong and a resistance member. A bus chase holds all the greatness Hitchcock was capable of creating, with twists galore as Armstrong holds his soon-to-be-wife close.

But then there’s the less successful thematic moments, inside offices with Germans debating Armstrong’s motives or over-extended scenes like one in a post office, with a conclusion that ultimately seems ancillary to the overall narrative given the time spent. The nuclear side (Armstrong is defecting from the US to provide Germany with anti-nuke weapons) is nothing more than a mere MacGuffin, but on which so much of the story depends. It’s an enticing political statement, that the US wouldn’t want this technology to become known, but its place in the plot diminishes rapidly; that makes it less a personal statement than a means to employ Hitchock’s familiar tactics.

Video

Photographed with a soft haze, the translation to 4K makes limited gains over the Blu-ray, but the resolution does make some difference. Texture improves where it can, especially in the wide location cinematography that’s often breathtaking. The vintage ’60s gloss is undoubtedly evident, and Universal’s encode has a challenge on its hands given the steaminess. Luckily, it holds up, preserving the image’s integrity.

At times aggressive, the HDR pass holds a blinding intensity in places. The first time a metal name badge reflects into the camera, it’s a small but notable flash. Even a light’s reflection on an actor’s eyes can produce a hefty visual pop. Overall however, the contrast enriches, making Torn Curtain quite sightly in places. A stable dose of black levels function as needed.

The earth tones that make up Torn Curtain’s palette look wonderfully smooth and organic via deep color. Flesh tones appear spot-on. Julie Andrews’ red robe is a spectacular sight, bright, intense, and vivid without appearing unnatural.

Audio

DTS-HD mono is sufficient but unremarkable. A dated scratchiness to the dialog doesn’t impact lines as to render them inaudible or unclear. The score nicely rolls along, smooth highs and stable lows impressive considering the age.

Extras

A basic making of, a look into Bernard Herman’s deleted score, stills, and a trailer make up the bonuses.

Torn Curtain
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Clumsily told and politically dated, Torn Curtain isn’t Hitchcock’s best, but does contain a few memorable scenes.

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User Review
3 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 36 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:


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