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Foreign Correspondent

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NOTHING SCARIER THAN POLITICS Foreign Correspondent is Hithcock's non-rated political thriller
Everett Collection

Foreign Correspondent

Current Status:
In Season
120 minutes
Joel McCrea
Alfred Hitchcock

We gave it an A-

When we think of Alfred Hitchcock’s main preoccupations, we think of scares, mistaken identities, and chilly blondes — but probably not politics. The director rarely spoke publicly of his position on this issue or that, preferring instead to spend his time in the spotlight perfecting a persona of avuncular morbidity. But Hitch was far from apolitical; rather, he baked his ideology directly into the crust of the films he made, no more so than in those he directed during WWII. Exhibit A is his rip-roaring spy-hunt thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940, 2 hrs., Not Rated), which has just been given an impressive Criterion makeover. Where 1938’s The Lady Vanishes operated in part as an allegorical critique of British appeasement, this quick-paced classic about an American journalist (Joel McCrea) in Europe searching for a kidnapped diplomat was geared toward influencing the U.S. out of its isolationist policies. No less a source than Joseph Goebbels reportedly praised the film as superb propaganda. (Uh, thanks?) It’s far more than that, though, as evidenced by the fact that we’re still watching it raptly all these years later. Hitchcock brilliantly stages a rain-slicked assassination scene and follows it up with an iconic and nail-biting sequence set in a Dutch windmill, while the effortlessly charming George Sanders chews on delicious lines courtesy of a coterie of screenwriters including Ben Hecht and American witmonger Robert Benchley. Criterion’s restoration looks gorgeous and is accompanied by a decent handful of new EXTRAS that help put it into its historical context, although the film is a Swiss watch that works perfectly all on its own. A