Hitchcock spy thriller added to collection

By Tracy Douglas

Foreign Correspondent, recently released as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection on DVD, stands out when compared to other films by the famous director. It remains a thriller, but a thriller more in the mold of spy movies like Notorious and North by Northwest, unlike Hitchcock’s notorious horror film Psycho.

Set in 1939 Europe, this film tells the story of reporter John Jones (Joel McCrea) who is sent to England to cover the coming war. He is sent because he does not know anything about the situation.

Before being sent off, Jones’ editor, Mr. Powers (Harry Davenport), changes Jones’ name to Huntley Haverstock. Powers tells him he needs to get an interview with a Dutch diplomat named Van Meer. After many ordeals, Haverstock eventually discovers Meer hiding among Nazi spies.

“I’ve thrown a wrench into some international funny business,” Haverstock says.

But he insists on staying on the story, which only gets him into more trouble.

Hitchcock uses neon lights, shadows on the wall and windows in the way that would later be defined as film noir. In the scene on the ledge of the hotel, Haverstock breaks two of the lights so that it says “Hot Europe” perhaps a reference to the heated tensions of the continent during that time.

In the beginning, the film is dedicated to the reporters who saw the war coming. Throughout the story, the commitment to getting the story continues.

“I do know a story when I see one, and I’ll keep after it until I get it or it gets me,” Haverstock said.

Foreign Correspondent was released in 1940, but filmed before war was officially declared by England. It is unique among period films because it has an agenda – to get America into the war. It is early Hitchcock but still one of his best.