Independent Films, Film Profiles
Torn Curtain (1966) is a political thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews.The movie opens on a cruise ship en route to Copenhagen, where Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman), an esteemed American physicist and rocket scientist, is to attend a scientific conference. Once there, he begins acting suspiciously, eventually flying to East Berlin, where he is welcomed by representatives of the East German government. His assistant and fiancée, Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews), follows him there, believing he has defected to the other side. Sherman, however, is extremely uncomfortable with this move, realizing if the apparent defection is in fact real, given the circumstances of the Cold War of the period, she would likely never see her home or family again. They are constantly accompanied by Professor Karl Manfred (Günter Strack), who took part in arranging Armstrong's defection to the East.It soon becomes apparent to the viewer that Armstrong's defection is in fact a ruse to gain the confidence of the East German scientific establishment, in order to learn just how much their chief scientist Gustav Lindt (Ludwig Donath) and by extension, the Soviet Union knows about anti-missile systems. Armstrong has made preparations to return to the West which are threatened (along with the entire escape network, known as Pi) when he is followed to the home of his contact (on an isolated farm) by Hermann Gromek, a Stasi officer (Wolfgang Kieling) assigned to his case. Armstrong kills Gromek, who is then buried, along with Gromek's motorcycle, by the "farmer" (Mort Mills) and his wife (Carolyn Conwell), but the taxicab driver (Peter Lorre Jr.) who drove Armstrong to the farm reports his suspicions to the police (Volkspolizei).Armstrong visits the physics faculty of Karl Marx University in Leipzig, where his loyalty is suspected because of the missing Gromek. The faculty try to interrogate his fiancee /assistant about her knowledge of the American "Gamma Five" anti-missile program, but she refuses to cooperate and runs from the room. At this point Armstrong secretly confides to her his actual motives, and asks her to go along with the ruse. Later at a social gathering, Armstrong tries (unsuccessfully at first) to prod Lindt for information, offering hints that the American efforts have had some success due to Armstrong's work. While he is discussing the anti-missile question with professor Lindt in Lindt's office, he successfully goads him into revealing his anti-missile equations in a fit of pique over what Lindt believes are Armstrong's mathematical mistakes. Lindt hears however, over the university's loudspeaker system, that Armstrong and his fiancee are being sought for questioning, and realizes finally that he has given up his secrets while learning nothing in return. Armstrong must make a harrowing escape, along with Sherman, with the help of the university clinic physician Dr. Koska (Gisela Fischer).They travel to East Berlin, pursued by the Stasi, in a false bus operated by the Pi escape network, whose leader is Mr. Jacobi (David Opatoshu). Roadblocks, highway robbery by Soviet army deserters, and bunching with the real bus increase the suspense. The escape eventually leads to an alliance with the exiled Polish countess Kuchinska (Lila Kedrova), and a typical Hitchcock set piece, an escape through a crowded theatre after being spotted by the lead ballerina (Tamara Toumanova), who arranges to contact the Volkspolizei. (The ballerina is annoyed at the beginning of the movie when she flies to East Berlin, on the same airplane as Armstrong, and waves to the gathered press corps upon arrival, thinking they are there to greet her. Instead, they rudely tell her to stand aside as their attention is focused on Armstrong.) They then get loaded with the props, in which they have hidden themselves, belonging to a travelling Czech troupe which made its final appearance in East Berlin prior to a tour of Sweden. The troupe travels to Sweden on a freighter across the Baltic Sea. The ballerina makes a mistake in uncovering where Armstrong and Sherman are hiding on the ship, thus diverting the crew's attention; meanwhile, Armstrong and Sherman escape by jumping overboard and swimming to a Swedish dock.
Year of Production: 1966
Length: 128 min, 126 min, 126 min
Country: United States
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Uncredited:, Alfred Hitchcock
- Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Lila Kedrova, Wolfgang Kieling, Hansjörg Felmy, Tamara Toumanova, David Opatoshu, Ludwig Donath