Most helpful critical review
Middle-of-the-road Hitch, with a few moments of glory
on July 4, 2002
With Hitchcock at the helm, no film can be truly awful, but despite some fine sequences, this offering is a little disappointing. The first section of the movie is played like a marital comedy, with some light banter between Stewart and Day, and a musical number thrown in to showcase Day's singing talents. It is mostly banal, though little by little, a few cracks begin to appear as we see that there are tensions in their marriage. Soon, however, an opportunity arises for Stewart to resolve the tensions by proving his virility: like the true man he feels he ought to be, he sets off in search of kidnapped son, Hank, after the pair find themselves entangled in international espionage and an assassination plot. It is here that the awaited suspense and thrills begin after a rather slow and humdrum start.
The middle section of the film is the most successful, exhibiting all the flair we have come to expect from Hitchcock. The twenty or so minutes either side of the suspense, however, are merely tedious. The last reel prolongs the film unnecessarily, far beyond what seems like the natural climax (the Albert Hall sequence). By then we are anxiously tapping our feet, waiting for it all to be over.
Nevertheless, the REAL finale (appearing some twenty minutes before the end) is one of Hitchcock's finest and most glorious moments. Filmed on location at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the suspense is palpable, and the effect, quite breathtaking. The entire sequence is a brilliantly articulate combination of editing (George Tomasini), camerawork (Robert Burks) and music (from the 1934 version by Arthur Benjamin, though conducted live on film by Bernard Herrmann, who composed the rest of the score, in a unique cameo). Even the dreadfully miscast Doris Day's overacting does not reduce the overall impact.
How can I not recommend this film? It is not all it could be, but it is certainly worth watching the whole for a few stretches of style between the moments of mediocrity.