Released in 1980, Hopscotch is the rare breed of comedic espionage cinema that is rarely made anymore. Following a decade rife with spy thrillers (The Day of the Jackal, The Kremlin Letter, The Odessa File, Three Days of the Condor, The Eiger Sanction), Ronald Neame – who also directed the aforementioned The Odessa File along with The Poseidon Adventure – took the genre into topical yet hilarious territory.
Based on Brian Garfield’s novel of the same title, Hopscotch features Walter Mathau as ex-CIA officer Miles Kendig, a man with as many disguises as enemies. On the cusp of publishing a tell-all memoir that will expose the ineptness of his brash, profane boss (played with glee by Ned Beatty), Kendig embarks on a globe trotting trip, constantly out smarting the CIA on his tail.
Taking the espionage genre into comedic territory wasn’t entirely novel in 1980; Arthur Hiller had done so the year prior with The In-Laws (also released by Criterion) and the swinging 60s had their fair share of silly spy films with titles like Charade, Modesty Blaise and Our Man Flint being in vogue – but Neame handles both the globe trotting hijinks and character driven comedy with finesse, taking his more stoic genre fare like The Odessa File and injecting it with a particular brand of cynical humor rarely seen in the genre.
The result is an immensely watchable (and re-watchable) film that hardly get its due. It’s the type of adult comedy fare that Hollywood seldom makes anymore, in favor of more ribald films that seem to be churned out ad infinitum. If nothing else, we have a trio of some of our best comedic performers – Mathau, Beatty and Sam Waterston – all facing off and it’s a wonderful spectacle to behold.
Criterion have brought Hopscotch to Blu-ray via a 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive. It has been cleaned up for instances of dirt and debris and overall is impeccable. Fans of this one have longed for a great transfer and here it is. Grain structure remains organic throughout, the palette is vibrant and the image is stable throughout. I can’t imagine fans not being very pleased with this transfer. Criterion have given us two different 1.0 tracks for this release, the first being a flawless presentation of the original soundtrack and the second being a very amusing TV version with the more profane lines of dialogue changed. It’s a fun track to check out if you’ve already seen the film before or are inclined to share it with anyone with sensitive ears.
Hopscotch doesn’t come with a ton of supplements but what’s there is up to par with the quality we’d expect from Criterion. Things start with a booklet featuring an essay by Glenn Kenny which is a great read. On the disc itself, we start with an episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” with Mathau as guest. It’s from spring 1980, prior to when the film was released in the US. It runs roughly twenty minutes and features Mathau being candid and funny as you’d expect. Next we get a piece featuring Neame and Garfield together talking about adapting the novel to a film, this is from the prior DVD release from Criterion. A teaser and trailer are also included, both in HD.
I, like many others, have been waiting for Hopscotch to get the HD treatment it deserves and I’m happy to say that’s finally here. Criterion have given this a flawless presentation and the package includes a couple of supplements that will please fans. This is a brand of smart adult comedy cinema that is rarely produced by Hollywood anymore and should be celebrated. Highly Recommended.