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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

'The best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made'


Plot Overview

Regina 'Reggie' Lampert (Audrey Hepburn at 33) vacationing in the French Alps confides in her friend Sylvie Gaudet (Dominique Minot), “Sylvie, I am going to get a divorce” from husband Charles, “Because I don't love him and he doesn't love me.” Sylvie counters, “That's no reason to get a divorce!” Reggie enjoys a life of leisure in a grand Parisian apartment and wears all the fashion au courant. Plenty of men would be interested in her regard­less. Why get a divorce? Right on cue she bumps into a debonair gentleman Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), they engage in some light banter and exchange contact info.

She returns to Paris to find the divorce a moot point: her apartment has been gutted, the maid gone, and the closets cleaned out. Further­more, Inspector Edouard Grand­pierre (Jacques Marin) of the Police Judiciare invites her to the morgue to identify Charles's body. He'd been tossed off a train, in his pajamas, on his way to Bordeaux to board a ship for Venezuela. Foul play is suspected. She knows little of her ex-husband's (secretive) life and says less. She's flum­moxed when shown his four passports, one each: Swiss, American, Italian, and Chilean, each under a different name.

Only she and Sylvie attend the funeral, with Insp. Grand­pierre in the back disinter­ested to the point of clipping his nails. Charles, it seems, had not many friends. Three strange characters put in a summary appearance: Tex Panthollow (James Coburn), Herman Scobie (George Kennedy), and Leopold W. Gideon (Ned Glass), but they leave as quick as they arrived once ascer­taining that Charles is indeed dead. Peter, though, having read about the death in the paper, comes to offer Reggie comfort and support.

Reggie receives a mysterious summons to the U.S. Embassy where she is received by CIA administrator Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau) who tells her her husband was actually Charles Voss who with those three characters at the funeral, and one more whom the Germans disappeared, were agents of the OSS (precursor to the CIA) during WWII, and they intercepted gold meant for the Resistance, but Charles ripped it off his confeder­ates and now they want their share and think she has it. He warns her that her life may be in danger.

Peter offers his protection, and she takes up with him on the rebound knowing as little about him as she did her former husband, this new beau having multiple identities, too. The movie keeps tripping across games, both children's games and adult party games, reminding us that spies (agents) are nothing if not game players, the theme song “Charade” emphasizing the point as well.

According to NYC detective turned best-selling author Edward Conlon, “Nature—or was it history?—some­times inter­vened before the police could, when the killer was killed. ‘Exceptional clearances,’ as they were known. Nothing was righted, as such, but some­thing was resolved. In the military, when the enemy turned on the enemy, they called it ‘red on red.’ Soldiers didn't have to pretend to be sad about it” (21). These crooks were distrustful of each other, and of Peter for that matter, so when red on red deaths started occurring, the police weren't overly concerned, but when the number of potential perps starts diminishing towards the point of one: "Peter" standing alone, easy-to-fall-in-love Reggie receives a wake up call and does some fast recalculating.


In an attempt to sort out the games people play (“Oh, I don't know who any­body is”), Reggie and Peter consider the riddle of the two Indian tribes, the always truthful White­foots and the always lying black­foots: Upon encoun­tering an unknown Indian, how does one tell which tribe he belongs to? That's reminiscent of the biblical formula: (Rom. 3:4) “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” There does seem to be a lot of liberty taken with the truth, by every­body. Even Reggie for a time does a “Fraülein” charade (“Women make the best agents.”) Visionary Maria Valtorta records a certain conver­sation of Jesus (202/461):

“My traitor will Be from Israel …”

“No, Master. That will never happen. If everyone should betray You, I will remain with You and defend You.”

“You, Judas? And on what do you base your certainty?”

“On my honor as a man.”

“Which is more fragile than a cobweb, Judas. It is God we have to ask for the strength to be honest and faithful.”

Reggie hopes her deliverer will be from a higher realm, some rescuer to come and “swing down from there on a rope to save the woman you love. Like the Hunch­back of Notre Dame.” At that point Peter turns and seeing Notre Dame Cathedral remarks, “What? Who put that there?” The camera lines up on the sacred architecture of the cathedral which, as per Psalm 48:9-10, makes a nice contrast to the swirling vortices displayed during the opening credits with the “Charade” song.

Production Values

“Charade” (1963) was directed by Stanley Donen. It was written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm. It stars Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Walter Matthau, all whose excellent perform­ances meshed well with each other, also aided by the perform­ances of George Kennedy, James Coburn, and Ned Glass. The script was rewritten to make the woman the forward one on account of Grant's sensitivity to his increasing age.

The soundtrack “Charade” music was composed by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Henry Mancini received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Music Score. A popular version of Charade would become a hit in its own right, with slightly varied lyrics from the movie's: “And it was closing night, the ending of the game, when we …” It's repeated at least three times varying in volume and whether or not lyrics are included.

Charles Lang's photography is excellent but can't compare to Hitchcock's more practiced eye. although Lang's camera work in the morgue shows imagination. This film is Hitch­cock­ian in style with: seamless romance, occasional slapstick, central crime theme, sight gags, flir­tatious banter, wrongful accusations, "calvary" rescues, a debonair Grant, murder galore, ghoulish humour, exotic European locations, and pervasive black comedy. This was a tightly crafted film revealing more and more information as it goes along.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

“Charade” had me riveted trying to figure things out. The Romance wasn't half bad either. This one was altogether worth it and was technically well done with solid performances. My highest recommendation to those whose shtick is murder-mystery viewing.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years but with guidance. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Special effects: Well done special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Conlon, Edward. Red on Red. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2011. Print.

Valtorta, Maria. The Gospel as Revealed to Me. Vol. 1. Translated from Italian by Nicandro Picozzi, M.A., D.D.  Revised by Patrick McLaughlin, M.A. This 2nd English Edition has now replaced the First English Edition, The Poem of the Man-God. WEB.