Torn Curtain – 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon

Unbezahlte Werbung für den Film Torn Curtain

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Being a German native I have always been intrigued by the movie Torn Curtain by Alfred Hitchcock, set during the cold war. I vividly remember the times, when there were two Germanys and two Berlins – both, east and west. Those times weren’t exactly funny and escpecially not to those living behing the iron curtain here. – I am happy to join Maddy Loves Her Classic Films’ 4th Alfred Hitchcock blogathon today, presenting this classic political thriller.

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Sir Alfred Hitchcock – 1899 – 1980

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THE IDEA BEHIND THE TORN CURTAIN

When two British diplomats defected to Russia in 1951, Hitchcock wondered what their wives thought of it? Hence he got the idea to make Torn Curtain. The plot is about American physicist and rocket scientist Professor Michael Armstrong, who seemingly defects to Berlin, East Germany, to where his fiancée and assistant Sarah Sherman follows him – without his consent. Hitchcock hired renowned actor Paul Newman here and Julie Andrews here, who had just won an Academy Award for Mary Poppins for the leading roles of Michael and Sarah.

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coping with the freezing cold

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THE PLOT

In the opening scene we find ourselves on a vessel that is taking a number of scientists to Copenhagen, Denmark.

The heating-system doesn’t work and people are sitting by their lunch tables wearing winter coats One table is empty and German Professor Karl Manfred is wondering where they are? The next scene plays in a cabin, where we see clothes piled up on a bed. Underneath Michael and Sarah, trying to make-up for the cold. A few moments into the scene Michael receives a radiogram which he says is not for him. Only to go back to the steward  to re-read and reply to it a little while later. He is supposed to pick up a book from a book store in Copenhagen.

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Professor Karl Manfred and Sarah Sherman in Torn Curtain

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COPENHAGEN

Upon arrival in their Copenhagen hotel Sarah picks-up a call for Michael from the book shop’s owner. While Michael’s under the shower she decides to take a stroll and collect it. Professor Manfred appears out of the blue and walks her there, very curious to find out what she’s up to. In the shop she is handed a wrapped book and asked to take very good care or it.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appearance

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Next on screen Alfred Hitchcock has a cameo appearance. While the viewer hear the tune of „Alfred Hitchcock presents…“ we see him sitting in the hotel lobby with a small child on his lap.

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handing over the book

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Then the camera turns to a group of people, where Sarah hands Michael the book. Seconds later we see him in the rest room, where he inspects it for a secret message. IT reads “Contact π in case of emergency.”

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what is Michael up to?

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We see Michael heading for the concierge’s desk in the hotel lobby, only to tell Sarah a few minutes later that he has to travel to Stockholm. He asks her to fill in for him at the Copenhagen conference. Sarah feels something’s wrong and asks the concierge when Michael’s flight to Stockholm departs. When she finds out that he will be flying to East-Berlin her feelings are in turmoil.

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Michael is not happy…

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FLIGHT TO EAST-BERLIN

During the flight to East-Berlin Michael spots Sarah in the rear of the airplane and is totally shocked. He tells her he doesn’t want her there and orders her to take the next flight home. She resists.

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…with Sarah’s decision to follow him

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Upon arrival journalists and photographers gather around the arriving aircraft. A prima ballerina, who sat next to Sarah in the plane poses for them. However, she’s not the one the crowd has been waiting for… they’re curious to see Michael who has planned to defect to East-Germany!

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journalists and photographers waiting for Michael

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Sarah ist just as stunned of Michael’s announcement, as Professor Manfred and his East-Germany colleagues are to see that she has joined Michael. That wasn’t part of the plan.

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Torn Curtain – the East German officials

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EAST-GERMANY

Once again Michael tells Sarah to take the next flight and return home, but something deep down inside tells her that things might not be as they appear. In a room, where the couple meets the East-German officials, Sarah remains quiet.

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Sarah – “You tell them…”

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When she is asked why she has come and if she wants to spend her life with Michael behind the Iron Curtain, she looks and Michael and spats: “You tell them! You sold out!”

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the reveal in Torn Curtain

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In a later scene we see the couple in a far distance on a hill, were Michael reveals his true motives to his fiancée.

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CONTACTING π 

We find out that Michael is in fact looking for German professor Gustav Lindt, who is supposed to have the answer to a question Michael and his American team can’t solve. In fact, his plan is to steal the formula and return to the United States. However, now that Sarah is there, he has to get two people out of the country, which is quite a task. While Sarah stays in in the hotel, Michael plays a game of cat and mouse with East German security officer Hermann Gromek, in order to get in touch with the escape network π  and to inform them of the new situation.

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Gromek, Michael and the farmer’s wife

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Michael’s plan to leave Gromek behind wasn’t successful. So shortly after Michael’s arrival he shows up on the farm that belongs to π . Once again Gromek and Michael play cat and mouse. And as Gromek grabs the phone in order to call  the East German officials and inform them that Michael is in fact a double agent, the farmer’s wife hits him with a shovel and then stabs him with a knife.

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Michael struggling with Gromek

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The scene of Gromek’s murder is quite long. Hitchcock wanted to show the audience in Torn Curtain how difficult it is to kill a person. In this scene only household appliances are used – a shovel, a knife and finally the gas oven.

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THE FORMULA

While π takes care of Gromek’s body and motorcycle, Michael takes the taxi back into the city. At Leipzig’s Karl-Marx-University Michael meets with Professor Lindt, his to-be new colleague as the latter believes.

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Professor Lindt and Professor Michael Armstrong

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So they play a game of question and answer, where Professor Lindt reveals more that he wanted to. Just as Michael has found the answer to his question, Gromek’s body has been found and the university is looking for Michael.

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Countess Kutchinska blackmailing Michael and Sarah

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THE ESCAPE

In a highly dramatic escape Sarah and Michael meet Polish Countess Kutchinska in East Berlin, who promises to take them to the post office on Friedrichstrasse, were they’re supposed to meet another π  contact. She blackmails them and wants them to act as her guarantor, so that she can emigrate to the US. They promise to do so and are helped, but Kutchinska is arrested by the Stasi here.

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Stasi at the ballet

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The couple manages to flee in costume boxes on a boat to Sweden. The prima ballerina, who is still angry with Michal that he has stolen her scene upon  arrival in East Berlin, has another big appearance. One, that leaves us smiling in the end…

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Torn Curtain

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CONCLUSION

Torn Curtain is a suspense packed movie. Although produced and shot mainly at Universal Studios in California, a few scenes were taken in East Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Poland. And as always with Alfred Hitchcock he got it spot on! I’m a big fan of his and movies made in the 1950s and 1960s in general

If the cold war and the iron curtain are topics you’re interested in, do watch Torn Curtain.

For more of Maddy’s 4th Alfred Hitchcock blogathon head over to her here

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Are you a fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies? If so, what is your favorite?

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🙂      Stay healthy and have a very HAPPY Sunday!       🙂

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N.B.: All pictures shown here have been taken while watching the movie on TV. So please excuse the bad quality!

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