Topaz appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film came with a fairly ordinary transfer.
For the most part, sharpness seemed good. Some mild to moderate softness occasionally interfered, but not with regularity. Though I didn’t think the movie often looked particularly crisp, it managed to provide acceptable delineation. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, but I noticed light edge enhancement throughout the flick.
Source flaws were a general distraction. Through the movie, I noticed examples of specks, marks, blotches, hairs, nicks and other minor debris. The film also tended to be grainier than average. None of these concerns overwhelmed, but the flick could use a good cleaning.
Colors tended to be a bit bland. The grain caused some of that, as that element diluted the vivacity of the hues. At times the tones became reasonably lively, and they were never bad, but I thought they could’ve provided greater vivacity. Blacks looked dark and firm, and shadows showed good clarity. All of this resulted in a “C+” presentation.
Nothing spectacular emerged from the monaural soundtrack of Topaz. While it seemed acceptable for its age, I thought the quality of the audio tended to be more dated than I’d expect. In particular, speech sounded metallic and stiff. The lines remained intelligible – except for those from Dany Robin, that is, as the combination of her accent and the lackluster recording quality made her dialogue tough to understand. Nonetheless, I thought most of the dialogue was fine.
The rest of the track followed suit. Music was clear but too bright; the score never became shrill, but it lacked warmth. Effects sounded similarly clean but without much range or dimensionality. Though I never felt impressed by the track, I still thought it merited a “C”.
With that, we head to the extras. Instead of the usual “making of” documentary, this one features Topaz: An Appreciation By Film Historian and Critic Leonard Maltin runs 29 minutes, 23 seconds. Maltin looks at Hitchcock’s status as a filmmaker in the 1960s as well as aspects of Topaz and a view of its place in the director’s canon.
It’s unusual for one of these Hitchcock documentaries to stick with only one commentator, but Maltin more than holds up his part of the bargain. He gives us an insightful and dynamic look at the film that throws out a lot of information in its short running time. It’s too bad Maltin didn’t record a full commentary for the flick, as he proves quite interesting in his recap of Topaz. Add to that cool glimpses of audience rating cards and other archival materials and this becomes a fine program.
Three Alternate Endings appear next. These include “The Duel” (4:05), “The Airport” (1:23) and “The Suicide” (0:58). Apparently “The Duel” was the finale originally intended for the flick until preview audiences hooted it down. “The Airport” is the same conclusion found on this DVD’s version of the flick, but apparently “The Suicide” is the one that appeared during the film’s original theatrical rendition. None of them are great, to be honest, so I can’t pick one that I prefer.
Next we find Storyboards for “The Mendozas”. This area uses still frames to show the storyboards as well as the relevant shots from the movie. I like the inclusion of the drawings, but I’d have preferred a split-screen running comparison to this still presentation.
Some standard features complete the set. Hitchcock often made fun ads for his flicks, but the trailer for Topaz seems ordinary. In the Production Photographs area, we find 37 stills that cover publicity shots, ads and behind the scenes images. They’re moderately interesting but not great. Finally, text Production Notes offer a few modest basics about the flick.
As Alfred Hitchcock’s career wound to an end, he manages a moderately interesting spy thriller via Topaz. Though the movie seems fairly generic for one of Hitch’s works, at least it creates a reasonably enjoyable tale. The DVD offers average picture and sound along with a pretty good collection of supplements. Topaz is average Hitchcock, but that’s enough to make it worth a look.