Cinema: Zombie

2 minute read

Zombie”If the dead were to come back, what would you do with them?”

#151;Alfred Hitchcock

You would call them Topaz. It would seem difficult to make a zombie from Leon Uris’ tense bestseller, based on diplomatic crescendos leading up to the Cuban missile crisis. Yet Alfred Hitchcock has done so without any discernible effort, spiritlessly following the events to their evitable inconclusion.

A French spy, Andre Devereaux (Frederick Stafford), is employed by American intelligence to venture into Cuba. He emerges with evidence of Russian rockets, but in the process abets the deaths of cooperative peasants, patriots and his old inamorata (Karin Dor). Kiss-of-death Devereaux returns to Paris with another revelation: Topaz is the code name for quislings in the De Gaulle Cabinet. They too are rooted out, to perish ignominiously.

Almost all of Hitchcock’s films deal with moral dilemmas. In Topaz he attempts to demonstrate that in international politics one cannot move his arm without striking another’s face, and that for every national action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The master has made such points in films from Foreign Correspondent to Torn Curtain. But at 70, Hitchcock seems suddenly to have forgotten his own recipe. Topaz contains no chills, no fever—and most disappointing, no entertainment. By the finale, the predictability of every turn and the grossness of the heroes and villains recall the old gag about the espionage agent who whispered a code message to a locked door. “Wrong apartment,” came the reply. “I’m Ginsberg the tailor. You want Ginsberg the spy, upstairs.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at