Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pocket notebook sighting: Foreign Correspondent

My affection for Foreign Correspondent (1940) is at least partly a matter of its being my first Alfred Hitchcock film, or one of the first. (Thanks, television.) Foreign Correspondent might not be a great Hitchcock film, but it’s a good one. It has strong overtones of The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938): war clouds, episodic boy-meets-girl plot (Joel McCrea, Laraine Day), an unnamed foreign power, double agents, an endangered oldster. Herbert Marshall and George Sanders are the most distinguished of the players, the later as Scott ffolliott (the capital F was removed to honor of a beheaded ancestor). ffolliott gets the film’s best line: “Cancel my rumba lesson.” Foreign Correspondent also has something relatively unusual for a Hitchcock film: compelling special effects. This notebook though is not one of them.

[Click for a larger view. But you’ll have to watch to figure it out.]

Two things I thought about while watching the film the other night:

Once war breaks out, the film leaves the oldster Van Meer (Albert Basserman) behind. There’s no happy reunion, as there is with Mrs. Froy (Dame May Whitty) in The Lady Vanishes). Van Meer’s day — when war might have been averted — is past.

The tactics that the enemy uses, and which the film depicts as barbarous — bright light, loud music, sleep deprivation — were to become the stuff of American military interrogation.

Foreign Correspondent is available from the Criterion Collection, beautifully restored, with lots of extras.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Cat People : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Extras : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The House on 92nd Street : The Lodger : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Palm Beach Story : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Quai des Orfèvres : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : T-Men : Union Station : The Woman in the Window

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