Review by Gordon Justesen
Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterston, Herbert Lom, Ned Beatty
Director: Ronald Neame
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: August 15, 2017
“I’m going to tell the truth.”
“Oh, it’s a work of fiction, ah!”
Hopscotch very much feels like a forgotten sort of caper comedy. They really don’t make movies like this anymore.And when they were being made they seem to be in short supply.
Based on a novel by Brian Garfield, who also wrote Death Wish, the movie is a very light comic espionage tale. The story centers on Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau), a CIA employee who’s just been demoted by his pesky superiors. As a way of striking back, he decides to write a tell all book about many of agency’s secretive doings around the world.
Of course, this doesn’t sit too well with his boss, Myerson (Ned Beatty), who wants Kendig silenced immediately. He assembles together a team to track Kendig down and stop him from publishing his “memoirs”. But Kendig, who has partnered up with recently widowed Isobel von Schoenenberg (Glenda Jackson), always appears to be one step ahead of his pursuers.
Directed by Ronald Neame, a filmmaker who dabbled in many genres from disaster (The Poseidon Adventure) to thriller (The Odessa File) to comedy (First Monday in October), the movie is very much the sort of brisk, eager to please action comedy that could only exist in the late 70s/early 80s. But it nevertheless remains a whole lot of fun. Much of the credit goes to the great Matthau, who is simply having a ball in the lead role, and you can tell he is in his every scene, especially the final one.
Hopscotch is definitely a product of its time, but it’s certainly a fun one to revisit. It’s a most engaging globe trotter of a movie with lots of scenic value to spare, as well as top notch performances. Spy adventures have rarely been this much breezy fun.
Criterion ushers in a mostly strong looking presentation with this Blu-ray release. Mastered from a new 2k digital restoration, we get a splendid picture that really shows off its many location settings rather well. Outdoor scenes payoff much better than indoor scenes, but there’s much more of the former to spare anyway. Colors and image detail are of most high quality.
With a PCM mono mix in tow, you get about what you’d expect. Mozart’s music plays a pivotal role in the film, as it is a favorite of the lead character, and each of his pieces sound especially superb. Dialogue delivery is of top notch quality, as well!
On this Criterion Blu-ray, we are treated to terrific interviews with both director Ronald Neame and writer Brian Garfield. The one new addition to this release, that wasn’t featured on Criterion’s initial DVD release, is a segment from The Dick Cavett Show featuring Walter Matthau that is extremely humorous. There’s also an optional audio track for a more family friendly version of the film, as the actual film is quite profane, a Trailer and teaser, and an insert featuring an essay from critic Glenn Kenny.
Hopscotch isn’t exactly a mold breaker in terms of its genre, but damn if it isn’t a breezily entertaining diversion of a offering. Walter Matthau is in prime form here and he anchors the film entirely.