Foreign Correspondent DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Warner Bros.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Charles Bennett & Joan Harrison
1940, Region 1 (NTSC), Not rated
DVD released on September 7th, 2004
Joel McCrea as John Jones aka Huntley Haverstock
Laraine Day as Carol Fisher
Herbert Marshall as Stephen Fisher
George Sanders as Scott ffolliott
Albert Bassermann as Van Meer
Robert Benchley as Stebbins
Edmund Gwenn as Rowley
Eduardo Ciannelli as Mr. Krug
Harry Davenport as Mr. Powers
Tired of the same old news reports his current staff is sending from Europe, a big city newspaper editor decides to send a beat reporter (Joel McCrea) to cover the impending war. Renaming the reporter with the catchy name Huntley Haverstock instead of his plain old John Jones name, the editor hopes his new protégé will uncover what's really happening behind the scenes. What Haverstock stumbles on is a gang of Nazi Fifth Columnists who in the guise of working for peace are plotting for the Germans. When a distinguished diplomat is killed by a fake photographer, Haverstock follows the killers all over Europe.
Falling in love with the daughter of a peace activist (the lovely Laraine Day), Huntley enlists her help along with that of a fellow correspondent (a rare good guy role by George Sanders) to find out who is really behind the ring of spies! Suspense, thrills and intrigue abound in this fast paced prewar action film by Hitchcock.
Only slightly dated, Foreign Correspondent was a marvel of it's time for special effects and is a predecessor of the modern day blockbuster.
I don't ever remember seeing Foreign Correspondent previously to reviewing this DVD, a misfortune on my part for sure! Along with Rebecca this was one of two of Hitchcock's films that were nominated for a best picture Oscar in 1940 (Rebecca won the award). Producer Walter Wanger was used to big budget action films and this was the biggest project Hitchcock had worked on up to this time. While a little dated the finale with a exciting plane crash into the ocean was landmark cinematography for it's time.
Foreign Correspondent has the usual great Hitchcock mix of humor, suspense, and something he used several times in films called the McGuffin. A secret fact to the film, the viewer never learns the answer to. Joel McCrea primarily known of his leading man role in action films handles a much stronger character dialog wise then we are used to seeing him in. It may be his best performance of his career that spanned six decades. George Sanders as the intriguing reporter Scott ffolliott is a great compliment to McCrea as the "Buddy" character. Sanders shows some traits of the other great character of the time he was playing as the original Simon Templar aka "The Saint".
The character actors Hitch used were also a top notch addition to the story. Robert Benchley (grandfather of Jaws writer Peter) injects some slapstick as the foreign correspondent that McCrea is sent to take over from and the normally lovable Edmund Gwenn is no Kris Kringle (from Miracle on 34th Street) as he plays the assassin Rowley who is dispatched to kill McCrea. Initially I was concerned that Foreign Correspondent was going to be more labor than love to review. How wrong I was! This is some of old Hollywood's finest work.
Video and Audio:
Warner has given us a remarkable transfer for a film of this age. Released in 1940 there are few films that are in such good condition as this one. It's presented in the standard 1.37:1 full frame of that time period.
Original Music by Alfred Newman compliments the fast pace of the film. The soundtrack is presented in a Dolby Digital mono format. Newman's music will make this two hour film seem much shorter than it really is. The sound is free of his or distortion throughout.
As with other films in the Hitchcock Signature Collection, there's a very informative documentary on the film. The theatrical trailer is in pretty good shape as well.
Films that Peter West reviews are viewed on a Mitsubishi WS-55413 HDTV and listened to on a THX certified Pioneer Elite VSX-55TXi A/V Receiver through a 7.1 setup of JBL Northridge E series Speakers.