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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2004
Despite being nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, Alfred Hitchcock's second American film, "Foreign Correspondent," has received little notice through the years. Critics gush, and rightly so, over "Rear Window" and "Vertigo" but scarcely breathe a word about this masterpiece. Released in 1940, the same year as "Rebecca," it has been left to languish in the graveyard of late night television where its very lack of promotion no doubt leads many a Hitchcock fan to believe it must be one of the master's lesser films, something on the order of "The Paradine Case" or "Under Capricorn."
"Foreign Correspondent" is, in fact, one of the director's greatest films, every bit as good as "The 39 Steps," "North by Northwest" and other famous Hitchcock classics and far superior to "Rebecca," a film that Hitchcock himself described as belonging more to Selznick than to him. The Master of Suspense's trademark touches are very evident in this exciting suspense adventure in which Joel McCrea (chosen after Gary Cooper passed on the project), a lightweight reporter for a New York newspaper, is given a plum assignment that leads him into international intrigue involving a kidnapped scientist.
Hitchcock may have been disappointed in McCrea (labelling him "too easygoing") but the often underrated actor is excellent and is aided by one of Hitchcock's most perfect casts. As fellow reporters, George Sanders provides plenty of world-weary wit and the great Robert Benchley, who also wrote some of his own dialogue, adds a light touch in what is otherwise a fairly grim thriller. Herbert Marshall is on hand as the elegant villain, and Edmund Gwenn who would define "warm and cuddly" as Santa Claus in "Miracle on 34th Street" a few years later, exudes evil as an assassin.
There are many standout scenes, all every bit as imaginative as the cropduster attack on Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" or the shower murder in "Psycho." Note the ominous mood in the windmill where the kidnapped scientist is held captive, or the plane's plunge into the ocean just before the finale. The moment when the aged scientist (perfectly embodied by Albert Basserman, an Oscar nominee for his role) is tortured in a hotel room while a helpless Sanders looks on can make you squirm more than anything in "The Birds."
In short, this is Hitchcock at the very top of his game. The only thing "Foreign Correspondent" lacks is the acclaim and notoriety it deserves.
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on August 29, 2000
This fast-paced espionage thriller is filled with many memorable Hitchcock images and performances. Joel McCrea (Huntley Haverstock) is a newspaperman sent to Europe to find out what is brewing on that great continent on the brink of war. McCrea makes contact with a Professor Van Meer, a Dutch diplomat who knows the secret clause to a peace treaty that many people would like to get their hands on. In his pursuit of Van Meer, McCrea meets Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) whose father (Herbert Marshall) is in charge of a world peace organization. It is hard to describe the movie without giving away too much of the plot, but the closer McCrea gets to the truth, the more the enemy tries to eliminate him. There are the usual Hitchcock characters who are not what they appear, plus a great crowd scene involving McCrea and Van Meer and about a million umbrellas, which is a masterpiece in and of itself. As you might suspect, McCrea grows close to Day and at first she tries to help him unravel the mystery. Through a misunderstanding, Day believes that McCrea has less than pure intentions where she is concerned and she consents to fly to America with her father. And what a plane ride they have! This movie has it all: great story, excellent script and dialogue, great acting by all the principles, and for the time, magnificent special effects, some of which still hold up quite well today. Hitchcock originally wanted Gary Cooper for the lead, but he turned the script down, thinking the film not right for his screen image. After seeing the finished product, Cooper regretted that he declined to make the picture (Cooper never worked with Hitchcock). Not to worry, McCrea is perfect in the role and makes it his own. Day, never the big star she could have been, gives a wonderfully sensitive performance as a young woman whose loyalties and illusions are dramatically torn apart. The black and white cinematography is first rate, as is the set design (everything was constructed on Hollywood sound stages!). Like Saboteur and North By Northwest that followed, Foreign Correspondent moves at a brisk pace from start to finish. This film was nominated for six Academy Awards in 1940 (losing the Best Picture Oscar to Hitchcock's Rebecca that same year),
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on May 16, 2000
Fourteen script writers held a race with the swift courseof contemporary history to produce the Walter Wanger thriller. Producer Wanger hired Alfred Hitchcock, that English past master of suspence, to concoct a thriller of Europe day. With Joan Harrison, Hitchcock's pretty blonde scenarist, they together dreamed up a string of sinister but unrelated scenes: a political assassination on a rainy day; a spy hunt in an abandoned windmill; a torture room in a dowdy hotel room and a transatlantic clipper shot down at sea. Together with his wife Alma Reville, Hitch then patched these incidents into a fast, funny, fascinating - and rather implausible tale of two great cities on the ever of WWII. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT has achieved a well-deserved reputation as a masterpiece of suspense and intrigue, and was instrumental in upgrading the reputation of the thriller genre (it was nominated for the best picture of 1940). Refreshing in that Hitchcock chose lesser known actors Joel McCrea and Laraine Day for the leads; both actors are likable and capable. Herbert Marshall is somewhat miscast in his role of Stephen Fisher but Robert Benchley is great as Stebbins, the broken-down American journalist working in London. George Sanders and Eduardo Cianelli do well in their roles. In his second American film, Hitch is scene briefly at a railway station!
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on November 7, 2000
What a terrific film! A near-perfect mixture of suspense, action and romance, with a great cast and dialogue. I can well imagine that this must have been a real crowd pleaser in its day. The black and white photography is excellent and the special effects are outstanding for the time. Some have criticized the ending as jingoistic, but one must remember its context. The European war was just getting started and many informed people were concerned that an isolationist America would allow the Nazis to attack across borders unimpeded. Hitchcock himself being British, this film may well have been partially intended as a wake-up call for Americans and an attempt to stir up some concern among them about events overseas. For me, bearing this in mind added an immediacy to the film that I found thrilling.
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on January 26, 2001
When the average person thinks of Hitchcock, they usually think of The Birds, Psycho....that sort of thing. That's perfectly understandable. Those are terrific films. But most people don't think of Foreign Correspondent, which is a shame. I loved this movie. I did find the ending a little dull, but I find the ending of many Hitchcock movies dull. I highly recommend it for any film student or buff. If you're not familiar with this one, you're missing out!
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on March 31, 2002
This is a great film from Hitchcock's Great Patriotic War period.
And it has one of the finest aviation sequences on film. If you check out any photos of the interior of the Boeing 314, you can appreciate the time Hitchcock spent on his set.
Since this film is older than nearly all of us, I have to assume that the plot is no longer a big secret. It's a very exciting sequence, even if it's a convenient way to bind the plot together.
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on March 15, 2002
This movie is one of my favorite Hitchcocks. The plot is perfect for Hitchcock's type of story. Joel McCrea plays a newspaper reporter who finds a German group of people trying to carry imformation out of the country. McCrea believes Mr.Fisher to be the head of the German group. He is in love with Mr. Fisher's daughter and that doesn't help either. This is a great Hitccock of all time.
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on March 18, 2000
Foreign Correspondent is a great Alfred Hitchcock thriller! It was very suspenseful up until the very end of the movie. The performances were great in this movie. This movie is just plain suspenseful with a capital S! I would definently recommened this Hitchcock thriller!
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on October 9, 1999
Probably one of the best spy cappers ever. Every set piece is unforgetable, every charecter charecter is defined and a great script result in a thourouly enjoyable movie. The only thing I personaly dislike about it is the finale propagander speech.
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on December 31, 2014
This is one of Hitchcocks early finest. Released the same year has his film Rebecca. Both were nominated for the Academy Award for best pitcher, Rebecca won.
The Criterion Bluray has fully restored film & sound. Lots of special features.
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