In the excellent making-of featurette, an interesting point is raised about the film's odd, lesser-known status: competing against the success of "Rebecca" and its Oscar success the same year, "Foreign Correspondent" is a bit of a lost gem. Placed alongside the gothic mystery of "Rebecca," one can easily see "Correspondent" is the director's return to the exciting, briskly paced suspense vehicles of his formal British period, in which spies and wannabe spies globetrot through elaborately constructed suspense sequences.
Several vital production aspects are highlighted in the featurette, and together form a mini-tribute to the expert creative minds working under Hitchcock that added so much to this underrated classic. Chief among them are writers James Hilton, and Peter Benchley (who also appears in the movie as Joel McCrea's English liaison to the British press). Benchley's two grandsons - including "Jaws" author Robert Benchley - provide some amiable portraits of the popular wit. Benchley was given surprising leeway by Hitchcock and producer Walter Wanger to add his own popular brand of humour between more serious passages, and Hilton contributed the witty, polished dialogue that sparkles during McCrea's appearance at a large dinner for noble peaceniks.
Actress Laraine Day also appears in a few brief interview segments, and still smiles benevolently when discussing her career hop from B-level roles to a co-starring seat in this big-budget production. The best parts, however, concern the magnificent set designs (some by William Cameron Menzies), Dorothy Spencer's exhilarating editing, Rudolph Mate's luminescent cinematography, and the elaborate visual and special effects. (The visual design and execution of the plane sequence at the end feel very modern, and it isn't hard to guess how much fun Hitchcock would've had with CGI technology.)
The only qualm in Laurent Bouzereau's otherwise excellent featurette is his heavy reliance on Bernard Herrmann's "North by Northwest" music. It's a seemingly petty point, but as fans and Hitchcock buffs make their way through each of the new titles in this particular Hitchcock wave, Bouzereau's reliance on the same thematic cues - particularly the love theme, which plays every time the conversations involve family memories, or the director's devotion to and respect for his wife - becomes increasingly grating. Prior featurettes effectively mixed themes from other films in this wave, so Bouzereau's choice for "Foreign Correspondent" can only be seen as a misguided effort to heighten the already well paced featurette.
Warner Bros' excellent transfer is made from a very good print (sporting a Castle Hill logo before the main titles), with minor flecks and nicks around the reel changes. The original mono mix is in good shape, with Alfred Newman's score skillfully moving from buoyant, melodic passages to eerie, threadbare underscore.
This Warner Bros title is available separately or as part of the Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection that includes: Strangers On A Train, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, Suspicion, North By Northwest, Dial M For Murder, Foreign Correspondent, The Wrong Man, Stage Fright and I Confess.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan