Released: 28th July 1959
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason
Advertising Executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for a government agent and in attempt to stop him a gang of spies pursue him and attempt to put an end to what they believe is Thornhill’s mission. As he is chased across numerous locations in the United States, he is helped along his way by the beautiful blonde Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint)
North by Northwest was one of Hitchcock’s tamer attempts at a thriller, made just a year before Psycho, its mistaken identity theme becomes a crime-caper that has stood the test of time very well, widely regarded as one of the best action/adventure movies ever made, it incorporates a clever mix of comedy and romance that allow the story to flow freely. Perhaps more so that if it had been entirely serious.
North by Northwest is essentially a Bond Film, just with one major difference- Alfred Hitchcock. All the elements of a Bond movie are here, Thornhill is the Hero, Kendall is the attractive women with whom he shares several romantic moments and innuendo. We also see Phillip Vandamm(James Mason) as the stereotypical bad-guy with an entourage of henchmen. Hitchcock creates such suspense in this film, that it’s hard to realise that it runs for well over two hours, instead it manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for its duration.
The film also contains two scenes that have, in their own right, became cinematic history, often spoofed by such TV series as The Simpsons and Family Guy, each scene was unique and fantastically shot by Mr Hitchcock, creating the most memorable moments of the film. I am talking of course about the infamous ‘Crop Duster’ scene (as show in the review’s featured image) where Grants character is hunted down by what at first seems like a regular crop duster, until it swoops low and fires at the floor near him. The scene continues for a short while and ends in a fantastic climax that mixes music and explosions perfectly. The second scene takes place at the films finale, a chase scene that takes place in the most unusual of locations, atop of the giant heads of some US Presidents aka- Mount Rushmore. These moments both unique for different reasons encapsulate Hitchcock’s genius in less than 10 minutes of screen-time.
Grant is wonderful as the charismatic, if not slightly incident prone, leading man. His collaborations with Hitchcock bring out the varying aspects of his acting prowess. With North by Northwest combining all of his talents, as mentioned, the interesting mix of action interspersed with romantic undertones give the film a resounding overall effect. Eva Marie Saint plays her part as the dangerous blonde beautifully, doing exactly what is required of her and offering the romantic reprieve in an otherwise serious film. We also see an interesting performance from a young Martin Landau as Vandamm’s henchman Leonard.
North by Northwest is one of those wonderful films that age perfectly, it is hard to envisage many modern day action/adventure films, standing in such good stead more than 50 years after its release. North by Northwest never really falters on its course, delivering exactly what you expect from a Hitchcock thriller, even if it is a more restrained creation than Psycho, in this reviewers opinion it is certainly one of Hitchcock’s finest films. A suspense filled extravaganza that never lets up. North by Northwest set the benchmark for all films of its type and they should still follow its direction today.
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