Torn Curtain (1966)
Torn Curtain is a Cold War thriller about the presumed defection of an American phyicist (Paul Newman) and his secretary/assistant/fiancee (Julie Andrews) to East Germany. Newman’s character is apparently bitter about having his missile-defense project killed by the Pentagon, so he’s taking his toys and going to the DDR. Or is he?!?!?!?
There’s a lot done right in Torn Curtain. I thought Newman’s grappling fight to the death with one of the agents assigned to him (Gromek) was ugly and prolonged (unlike most Hollywood fights) — and very effective. And the German Commies were played as credible foils – not omniscient, but not blundering fools, either. It was weird to see Germans be the enemy without them being Nazis. In the end, I didn’t love this movie mostly because Newman and Andrews have zero chemistry. ZERO. None. Zip. Nothing. Nada. I didn’t care about them or their relationship in anything more than the most abstract sense.
Thing I liked most: The death of Gromek. The incredibly slow “bus-chase” scene where Newman and Andrews attempt to bluff their way from Leipzig to Berlin with the aid of some sympathizers. The wide cast of supporting actors did a great job.
Things I didn’t like: Did I mention that Newman and Andrews had zero chemistry? Did he really save the day by causing chaos in a movie theater by yelling, “Fire!!”?? One of the most climactic scenes was two guys at a blackboard.
Things that are still with me: Newman was just too damned good looking to be a physicist. A biochemist, for sure, but never a physicist. Have you ever met one of those guys?
Grade: B- Good overall supporting performances undone by leaden lead chemistry.