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ALFRED HITCHCOCK TAKING ON COLD WAR CUBA FOR 'TOPAZ'

Frederick Stafford & Karin Dor in TOPAZ Year: 1969 Rating: ***1/2
In Alfred Hitchcock's Cold War Thriller TOPAZ, by the time there's someone to root for in French James Bond-looking Frederick Stafford, seeking information in Castro's Cuba with the aid of scene-stealing sneak-around Roscoe Lee Browne, we've forgotten it all started with John Forsythe helping an important Russian family defect in what feels like its own suspenseful short film...

The problem is length: After the splendid demise of beautiful Karin Dor in the only moment TOPAZ is linked to Hitchcock's legendary style... a dress seeming to bleed into the floor... there's a lot of talky running-out-the-clock with villain John Vernon as a Cuban General; what's really shocking is he only seems miscast. His input early on is actually quite effective. But it's one outdoor sequence involving two hungry seagulls (from the director of THE BIRDS no less!)... screwing up a perfectly good spying-on-the-villains-picnic... that really feels like Hitchcock's dark comedy touch. He simply needed more touches here.

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