The Short Night

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The Short Night was a film planned by Alfred Hitchcock. The project was originally announced in the late 1960s at the time of Topaz and Hitchcock scouted locations in Finland. A romantic suspense thriller with espionage elements, the script was based on both a same-titled novel by Ronald Kirkbride, and the non-fiction book documenting the case of real-life double agent George Blake titled The Springing of George Blake by Sean Bourke, the motion picture rights to both of which Hitchcock acquired.

Hitchcock commissioned screenplays by James Costigan and frequent collaborator Ernest Lehman, both of whom wrote several drafts. The script draft by David Freeman, reproduced in Freeman's book The Last Days of Alfred Hitchcock, takes place after the break out from London's Wormwood Scrubs Prison of Gavin Brand (the screenplay's version of Blake). An American named Joe Bailey, brother to one of Brand's victims, is called on by the CIA to kill Brand through finding his family. The objective, as put by CIA chief Zelfand, is to "find the wife and kids, find the husband."

Bailey reluctantly accepts the assignment to kill Brand and finally tracks down Brand's family to a private island near Savonlinna in Finland, where they are watched over by Hilda and Olga, two Russian minders. Bailey and the wife, Carla, develop a romance as he waits patiently for Brand to show up. After they consummate their love, Brand shows up, and attempts to kill both Bailey and Carla, leading to her becoming trapped in a gas-styled sauna. Bailey rescues Carla and, with the help of a Finnish police officer, they try to stop Brand making it to the Finnish-Russian border on a train with his kidnapped children.

Hitchcock, comparing his intentions for the project to Notorious, considered Walter Matthau, a onetime guest star on Alfred Hitchcock Presents for the role of Brand; he also reportedly offered the same role to Ed Lauter, (who appeared in Family Plot), Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, and Steve McQueen. French international film star Catherine Deneuve and Norwegian star Liv Ullmann were also considered for the leading female role. The movie was to be filmed on location in Finland. Because of the director's ill health, Universal Pictures cancelled the project in 1979, and the film never got beyond the early pre-production stage with such Hitchcock associates as Norman Lloyd, Henry Bumstead, Robert F. Boyle actively involved.

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