Sunday, April 09, 2006

Movie Review: North by Northwest

U.S. Release Date: 7/17/59
Running Time: 2:16
Rated: PG (Mild profanity, mild violence)
Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll, Philip Ober, Martin Landau

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producer: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Studio: MGM


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With the release of films like Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window, Hitchcock quickly earned the title, “The Master of Suspense.” North by Northwest furthers the notion behind this moniker and unravels a thread comprised of not only suspense, but also romance, comedy, and action. While most would agree that North by Northwest is not Hitchcock’s most mind-boggling effort, it is one of his most complete. Expansive in plot and broad in breadth, North by Northwest is a genre-bending, stylized journey that travels steady like a train—definite in its direction and confident in its destination.

Mr. Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is a busy Manhattan advertising executive, whose chiseled jaw and polished look perfectly compliment his frenzied, yet sarcastic, demeanor. After stealing a cab from a “Good Samaritan” and ordering his secretary to buy an expensive box of chocolates for his heartbroken ex, Roger attends a sit-down business dinner. However, when he leaves the table to send a telegram, two thugs hold him at gunpoint, force him into the back of a car, and take him meet a man named Lester Townsend (James Mason). Lester, and all else, mistake Thornhill to be a man named George Kaplan. Thornhill informs the mend that they are mistaken, but they persist. Soon, Thornhill tries the identity switch on for size, but he receives far more than he had bargained for—including his face on every paper – wanted for murder – and an amorous blonde named Eve Candle (Eva Marie Saint).

In viewing North by Northwest, it is entirely apparent why Hitchcock is push-pinned as one of America’s finest directors. Between the sarcastic comedy, the light sensuous romance, and the definitive action, it is obvious that Hitchcock knows what buttons to press, at the most opportune time. For instance, his camera work with the drunk-driving scene is utterly superb, while his choice of shot post-murder is entirely effective; both scenes bottle-up the tone of the piece like no other. Furthermore, Hitchcock’s placement of the opening credits – parallel to the buildings – are stupendous an undoubtedly an inspiration for David Fincher’s Panic Room.

Originally titled, “The Man on Lincoln’s Nose,” North by Northwest was a film that happened to be crafted around its Mount Rushmore climax. Nonetheless, North by Northwest is more famous for its crop-duster sequence, which even makes the non-agoraphobics fearful of wide-open spaces. Nevertheless, that is the beauty associated with North by Northwest; there is something to clamor over around each and every turn. Be it the erotic romance (between a machismo male and a fiery female), the pre-James Bond action/suspense, or the Hitchcockian token in which each set of number mentioned sum to 13, North by Northwest is one of the great films of the ‘50’s. (**** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2006