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Foreign Correspondent: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Foreign Correspondent: Criterion Collection

March 4, 2014

Director: Alfred Hitchcock,
Starring: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Basserman, Robert Benchley,

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DVD Review

While Foreign Correspondent (1940) was Alfred Hitchcock’s second Hollywood film, the director considered it his first, true effort. He regarded Rebecca (1940) as not one of his films because it lacked humor thanks to the meddling of David O. Selznick. The director was loaned out for this second film and given creative freedom to make a thriller that harkened back to the British chase films he made in the 1930s, like The 39 Steps (1935). The end result was the very entertaining Foreign Correspondent.

On the cusp of World War II, the New York Globe wants to get solid news from Europe about when war will break out and where. So, the editor enlists maverick crime reporter Johnny Jones (McCrea) to go to Europe and bring a fresh perspective. He’s ambitious and hungry, jumping at the assignment. He’s tasked to interview a man named Van Meer (Basserman), a Dutch diplomat and a crucial player in keeping peace in Europe. If anybody would know about the impending war it would be him.

Jones soon finds himself in London and is quickly shown the ropes by fellow correspondent Stebbins (Benchley, full of snappy, dry wit). At a party, Jones meets Carol Fisher (Day), a pretty public relations agent, and they exchange flirty dialogue while he tries to get some information out of her. When Van Meer is assassinated in broad daylight, in front of many people, Jones is plunged into a shadowy world of political intrigue.

Joel McCrea brings an everyman quality to the role of Johnny Jones that Hitchcock was looking for and uses his superb comic timing to hold his own against the pretentious European types his character meets early on in the film. He plays well off the fresh-faced Laraine Day who brings an undeniable charm to Carol Fisher. She’s no damsel in distress, but rather a quick-witted, fast-talking foil.

Due to the elaborate special effects, Foreign Correspondent went over-schedule and over-budget, but was well-received and even nominated for several Academy Awards. More importantly, it was a quintessential Hitchcockian thriller and the beginning of a fantastic run of films in Hollywood for the director.

Special Features:

This new Blu-Ray transfer is revelation with more information included on all sides of the frame. Detail is incredible and the filmic quality is intact, but with all the distracting blemishes removed. Highly recommended!

“Hollywood Propaganda and World War II” features writer Mark Harris talking about the ending of Foreign Correspondent and how it was added at the last minute to bolster American audiences’ support for the European war effort against Nazi Germany. He talks about the role propaganda played in Hollywood movies during World War II and provides backstory to Hitchcock’s film.

“Visual Effects in Foreign Correspondent” features visual effects expert Craig Barron examining some of the amazing effects in the film. He points out that Hitchcock was fascinated by special effects and incorporated them in many of his films. Barron does a good job showing how certain sequences were put together.

“Dick Cavett Interviews Hitchcock” is an hour-long interview that aired in 1972 when Frenzy was released. The director talks about his life and career in a fascinating interview. His trademark droll sense of humor is readily apparent as he tells some entertaining anecdotes.

Also included is a radio adaptation of Foreign Correspondent that originally aired in 1946 by the Academy Award Theater.

“Have You Heard?” is a thriller created out of a series of still photographs that Hitchcock did for Life magazine to help out in the war effort during World War II.

Finally, there is a trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 90%

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