For reasons I can only suppose have to do with the film having been made for independent producer Walter Wanger, Alfred Hitchcock’s second American film Foreign Correspondent (1940) has never received the attention it deserves. Personally, I think it’s the best thing he did in the 1940s. That may be due to the fact that it’s the American Hitchcock film that is most like his British movies—albeit with better production facilities and more money—and I freely admit preferring those films to his more lauded Hollywood works. Brilliantly and creatively designed by the great William Cameron Menzies, Foreign Correspondent is the epitome of the studio-crafted movie. There’s not a lazy, haphazard shot in the entire film, which is shrewdly constructed in a series of increasingly complex set pieces for which Hitchcock’s works are rightly famous. The story—though very timely with Europe going to war—is a basic espionage affair. Joel McCrea plays a newly branded foreign correspondent, Huntley Haverstock (nee Johnny Jones), who stumbles onto a plot involving a shady world-peace organization and a group of determined spies and assassins, all out to obtain a vital piece of war information from the supposedly assassinated (in reality kidnapped) Dutch diplomat Van Meer (Albert Basserman). There’s also time for bantering romance between McCrea and Laraine Day, pleasant comedy and a flag-waving patriotic speech at the end that amazingly has lost little of its power and is completely non-cloying. Add to that a breathless pace and a series of stunning sequences and you have one hell of a movie.
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