November 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Maurice JARRE’s music for Alfred Hitchcock’s TOPAZ

starring Frederick Stafford, John Forsythe, John Vernon, Dany Robin, Michel Piccoli,Philippe Noiret, Roscoe Lee Brown, Claude Jade, Michel Subor  
Universal Home Video 044 9223 purchase from Yalplay


Leon Uris' novel supposes a tangled international espionage resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Deputy Chief of the KGB defects to the West providing all sorts of information. The Americans want to know what the Russians are providing the Cubans with, and enlist the aid of a French Embassy operative (Devereaux). Complications ensue in obtaining the information with a doomed love affair, that leads to Devereaux ordered to report his activities to the French authorities. The Russian defector reveals a spy ring of French officials working for the Russians called Topaz. This makes Devereaux's job impossible on returning to Paris. Eventually, by bluffing and outright accusation the traitors hands are forced, and the Crisis is over almost before it begins.


You have to hope Hitchcock's thinking behind hiring Jarre wasn't as simple as getting a Frenchman to write music for a Frenchman. Whether or not that was the case, that's what you get - an accordion for Devereaux's every appearance. Whether in New York, Washington, Cuba, or Paris - the instrument is his motif and an increasingly irritating one. At the most inappropriate of times, this high frequency instrument cuts across dialogue or action in a very distracting manner. An example is a tense office scene which is underscored for accordion and a kitchen sink assortment of percussion. This is a complicated film that falls flat through only the vaguest of dramas seeming wholly un-interesting between too many throwaway characters. There's much of James Bond about Devereaux, but even when showing off his technical goodies, the score merely plays on some woodblocks underneath the accordion.

The cues are drastically short, and although many segue scenes together there's no correlative sense from start to end. A harpsichord takes over for the love affair with Juanita de Cordoba, but even this cannot save a truly cut and paste soundtrack. The real musical star is the only thing you'll find acknowledged on any collection: The March that opens and closes the film.


Paul Tonks


Paul Tonks

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