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North by Northwest
Year:
1959
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill
Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall
James Mason as Phillip Vandamm
Jessie Royce Landis as Clara Thornhill
Leo G. Carroll as The Professor
Josephine Hutchinson as Mrs. Townsend
Philip Ober as Lester Townsend
Martin Landau as Leonard
Adam Williams as Valerian
Edward Platt as Victor Larrabee
Les Tremayne as Auctioneer
Philip Coolidge as Dr. Cross
Patrick McVey as Sergeant Flamm - Chicago Policeman
Storyline: Madison Avenue advertising man Roger Thornhill finds himself thrust into the world of spies when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. Foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard try to eliminate him but when Thornhill tries to make sense of the case, he is framed for murder. Now on the run from the police, he manages to board the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago where he meets a beautiful blond, Eve Kendall, who helps him to evade the authorities. His world is turned upside down yet again when he learns that Eve isn't the innocent bystander he thought she was. Not all is as it seems however, leading to a dramatic rescue and escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore.
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Reviews
A king of movies
Not only is this the best Hitchcock, this is one of the best films ever made. Don't let the date, 1959, scare you off, this has everything possible for a movie: great, believable acting from all(Grant, Saint, Mason, Landau, and even the minor players); stunning cinematography(decades ahead of its time), fantastic stunts(the air-duster scene, and the Mount Rushmore finale), a brilliant score by Bernard Herrmann, and the perfect mixture of action, humor, and a dash of romance.

One lesson that all modern film makers could learn from this movie is timing. With some rare exceptions, many of today's movies have good story lines, but waste several minutes on meaningless scenes (Lost Souls, or Traffic, to name a couple). Hitchcock proved a movie can be over two hours and still keep you in suspense. Do yourself a favor and rent this, better yet, own it. You'll want to watch it more than once.
2001-03-25
Thrill, Spills....and Hitch!
Cary Grant is THE James Bond who never was.

He was approached to play the role in the early 60's but he declined, citing that he was too old. Sean Connery got the job instead, and was a huge success. But one feels that Grant would have been the definitive Bond if he ever played the role. This, and 'Notorious', are certainly his best films for Hitchcock, and this is certainly his best Bond-type role. He stars as Roger O. Thornhill, a suave, womanising, New York advertising executive who is drawn into a web of intrigue after suffering a case of mistaken identity. He ends up being pursued across the country, unwittingly embroiling himself further in the web with his dalliances with Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint, as the Is She Good Or Is She Bad? femme)and others.

Hitchock's favoured 'Wrong Man' situation is utilised perfectly here, as Grant is caught up in circumstances that he has no control over. But Grant takes it on the chin, and his charisma and comedic timing as Thornhill are excellent. This is a most entertaining and humorous Hitchcock film that maintains it's pace and action for over two hours. The suspense never lets up, as we are treated with some truly amazing sequences, including the finale atop Mt Rushmore, a UN headquarters visit, and THAT pesky crop duster. And keep in mind that these are just a few of the many, many amazing scenes here.

Eva Marie Saint is so different here from the innocent Edie Doyle role in 'On The Waterfront' that garnered her an Oscar. She's matured into a sweetly seductive woman of the world who Grant falls head over heels for. Their encounter on the train is filled with corny pick-up lines and rather silly yet juicy dialogue, but it WORKS. One feels cheated when the train affair actually ends; re-winding is essential.

Hitch's love of trains is also conveyed perfectly here, with the train symbolising sexual attraction and mystery (check the closing shot especially- very overt symbolism!), as Grant and Saint ride on board. We also have great villains in James Mason and Marty Landau. The very charismatic James Mason is wonderful as the trademark very charismatic Hitchcock villain, Phillip Vandamm. His trademark mellifluous voice and dark good looks (is this man not insanely attractive?)are used to great effect here. He gets many great lines.

This is a re-working of Hitchcock's British film, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935) with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. Comparison is not really warranted, as they films from entirely different era's and made in different countries with vastly differing budgets. However, 'North by Northwest' jumps over the earlier effort when they are compared as just two Hitchcock films from the cannon.

Made a year after 'Vertigo' bombed, 'North By Northwest' is seen by many as Hitch's safe, crowd-pleaser film. True in many ways, yet it is an unassailable classic regardless of any formulaic overtones. Grant is perfect in this rip-roaring ride full of suspense.

10/10.
2006-05-26
Top-notch suspense /adventure film still looks great after 40 years!
For Christmas this year, I received my first to-own DVD: Hitchcock's classic, NORTH BY NORTHWEST. After over 40 years, this rip-racing adventure-thriller still packs a punch and looks great on widescreen. This movie came along during a renaissance period for the Old Master, between masterpieces like VERTIGO and PSYCHO, but this excursion into the world of suspense is so different from anything else Hitchcock had created up to that point. Never did he challenge our endurance to keep still in our seats for such a long period of time, and yet the film's 135 minutes go by so fast it could only be explained by movie magic itself.

Cary Grant is one of those actors that a filmgoer either falls in love with or deeply envies. His debonair manner is displayed to the full in this film, even though the peril that his character goes through would cause any normal dude to break into a maddening sweat. The dialogue Roger Thornhill delivers alongside Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) in this film is sometimes too hilarious to be true, but wouldn't any woman fall for it? (I'm merely guessing here) Ernest Lehman's screenplay is so lighthearted and yet very ominous. With all the traps and pitfalls Grant goes through in this film, you would have to find comedy in it. Grant does and to great appeal. I absolutely love the sequence at the auction when Roger tries to get himself arrested by yelling out flaky bids and accusing the auctioneer of selling junk worth no more than $8. I also admire the scenes with Saint on the train to Chicago; I was tempted to jot down some of his pick-up lines, but then I realized it's just a movie (or is it?)

Hitchcock was famous throughout his career of setting up death-defying sequences with major landmarks as backdrops. Here, Mount Rushmore will never be looked at the same again afterwards. We may never enter the United Nations again without peering behind our backs for a notorious knife-thrower. And, I dare say, I will never walk alongside a highway where a cropduster could swoop at any minute. I love the line during the Rushmore incident when Grant says his two ex-wives left him because he lived too dull a life. Go figure!

It has been said that Hitchcock's many films each contain a personal side of the director inside them. The archetypes of the Master of Suspense are here amid the chasing and running across the U.S. The mysterious blonde, played to a tee by Eva Marie Saint, is a common fixture of many Hitchcock jaunts. Saint joins Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren in this feature. The protagonist is again awkward when faced with the opposite sex, but unusually casual when wrapped up in danger. The hero has an attachment to his mother, continually under his nurturing wing. And of course, the macguffin has fun with us again (government secrets my foot!)

Whenever I see action-packed epics today like "The Fugitive" or the James Bond series, they all seem to quiver in comparison to this film. It amazes me that Hitchcock is able to hold the audience in the palm of his hand throughout the whole length of the journey. We become Grant as he runs away from the police and the secret agents who have chosen him as their dupe. But throughout the squabble, we sense that Grant is getting off on the whole jaunt, just as we want the chase to continue, not looking at our watches for a minute. However, it's fascinating to note that Roger Thornhill is not a born adventurer, nor is he an archeologist with a flair for escaping impossible situations. We are experiencing the Cary Grant in all of us, running away from an enemy we do not know they are or what they want. Is this symbolism of some kind? I say who cares; just watch the film and have fun!
2000-12-25
Hitchcock's "blue" movie
Picasso had his "blue" period, and blue figured prominently in some of Elvis Presley's recordings ("Blue Moon," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "A Mess of Blues," "Moody Blue," and so on). But I don't recall hearing much about Alfred Hitchcock's blue period. Yet, the great director's "North by Northwest" is awash in that color, so much so that it must have been a deliberate, and, therefore, significant move.

Blue, and a rather unattractive pale shade of it at that, is everywhere in "North by Northwest," so damn prominent that I found myself annoyed when watching what was once one of my favorite films on video. Yes, there was so much blue that "North by Northwest" may not be one of my favorite films for long. Blue, especially that pale shade, is not my favorite color. But there's Cary Grant in a pale blue suit; the interior of the train he boards when fleeing the police is blue; the sky, of course, is blue; and, well, there just seems to be blue--that sickening pale blue--everywhere. What was Hitchcock thinking? The master of suspense was famous for planning his films down to the smallest detail, so unless I saw a bad video transfer, he must have had a reason for emphasizing that color.

Well, "North by Northwest" is still one of Hitchcock's greatest films, although what stands out after repeated viewings is not that crop duster scene, or the escape from enemy agents across the faces of Mount Rushmore, or the naughty image at the conclusion, but the music: Bernard Herrmann's score is one of the composer's most thrilling and unforgettable works.

I must say that after my most recent encounter with the blue hues of "North by Northwest," I appreciate all the more the fact that Hitchcock made his next film ("Psycho," of course) in black-and-white.
1999-04-07
One of Hitch's better flicks
Somewhat overblown suspense thriller has exciting plot twists and Cary Grant's unique screen presence to recommend it. Well directed, tells the story of an advertising man mistaken for a decoy created by the CIA, who is hunted across the nation and ends up falling for the CIA's undercover agent -- Marie-Saint. The "Open paranoia" scene in the cropdusting field is a great sequence. Here Hitchcock succeeds often in not being obvious, remaining playful, and pleasing the audience a lot.

I must respond to the comments I read on here by user "tedg" -- I did not find them illuminating. On the contrary, they seem to be the products of a confused mind, and someone who has not paid much attention to what he's saying before putting it in print. First of all, as to his complaint about the quality of the sets, they are not as he claims "junk" but actually well-made sets. I'd like to see him, or anybody, given a lot of money create a duplication of the monument in question that would look better -- it just can't be done, because the monument itself is made of stone and took decades and millions of dollars to make.

Also, "tedg" comments on the character played by Marie-Saint (hardly my favorite actress) -- he notes that she plays a "prostitute" who is turned patriotic, but he doesn't seem to have been paying enough attention to the film to notice that in the end it is revealed that she is an undercover CIA agent, and not a prostitute at all.

Users like this should definately not turn off their vcrs before the end of a movie if they're going to try to post thoughtful comments on it.
2002-10-28
A Hitchcock classic, but not among his best
`North by Northwest', written by Ernest Lehman and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, stars Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill, an advertising executive who finds himself embroiled in a particularly nasty case of mistaken identity. He finds himself being mistaken for a gentleman who is wrapped up in some dirty dealings with Phillip Vandamm (James Mason), his henchman Leonard (Martin Landau) and various other unsavory thugs under Vandamm's employ. He also meets up with Hitchcock's requisite blonde femme fatale, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) and surrounded by this cast of characters makes a cross-country adventure where his life is threatened several times; all the while with Thornhill having to depend on his wits to keep him alive.

While `North by Northwest' is a good film, I don't consider it to be one of his best, which, at least in my small circle of rabid film friends/relatives, is fairly sacrilegious. I enjoy the vibrancy of the script and the lush cinematography, but there are a couple of things that cause the film to fall short of excellence on my personal Hitchcock scale. Mainly, there's the matter of James Mason as the villain. Mason is a great actor, and has been in some really good films, so his talents were wasted as the tepid Vandamm. There simply really wasn't a part for him in the film; rather, most of the relatively `juicy' bits were relegated to Martin Landau. It seemed that the concentration was solely on Grant's character, which in most cases is adequate, but in a suspense film, I personally like to see the villain have a more pervasive presence.

Of course, there are some masterful elements to this film. The infamous cornfield scene is truly masterful. It isn't even the shot of the crop duster chasing down Grant – the image that gets me every time is the very quick shot of Grant standing across the dusty road from the gentleman waiting for the bus. As he is sizing him up, trying to figure out if he is the man that he has traveled a long distance to see, Hitchcock frames the shot much like a classic western. There are many shots like this that, if frozen, would make a compelling photograph. I can also acknowledge, while I am not as much a fan of Hitchcock's comedic moments as I am of the more dark or horrifying ones, that the comic timing with which Grant delivers his lines is excellent. His charisma certainly adds a spark to the film, and there are times when he is so smooth that even if something was completely unbelievable I had to laugh and say, `Hey, it's Cary Grant – what do you expect?'

`North by Northwest' was made in 1959 and is more akin to the whimsical and much-eschewed `The Trouble with Harry' than his more story-driven films of the 1940's and his horrifying masterpiece a year later, 1960's, `Psycho'. While I acknowledge that `North by Northwest' is a good film, it doesn't even make my personal `Hitchcock Top Ten' on which his darker films dwell. However, it's kind of the way I feel about the Coen Brothers – even a simply `good' film of theirs is usually much better than the average film, so a slightly above-average Hitchcock film like `North by Northwest' garners at least three stars from me.

--Shelly
2004-08-25
My personal favorite of Hitchcock's films!
It's all too simple really. Hitchcock used this plot device before in many of his films; the innocent man caught up in circumstances beyond his control ("The Wrong Man", "The Man Who Knew Too Much"). However, never will you see Hitchcock use this device more cleverly and stylishly as in "North By Northwest."

Cary Grant plays the innocent man like, well, Cary Grant. Add James Mason as the villain (Mason has a great voice... close your eyes sometimes when watching...chilling!), Martin Landau as his henchman, and Eva Marie Saint as the cool blonde equals a great film.

What other Hitchcock film can boast of not one but two famous suspense scenes? Cary Grant being chased down by a dustcropper will be talked about and studied in film schools for years to come. The chase across Mt. Rushmore is a perfect way to climax the film as well...

There are smaller things to look for too. Watch for the famous kid in the snack shop who covers his ears seconds before a gun is shot and why did Hitchcock use THAT image over "The End"??? Hehehe...
2000-03-04
Leave your brain home
(SPOILERS- if you've been living it in a cave)

OK, now explain this to me. Eva Marie Saint tells Cary Grant to go out to this 'middle of nowhere' spot to meet the actually non-existent agent he is after who will explain everything that has been happening to him. He's let off in the middle of this endless road and waits. Nothing happens. Then he notices a crop-dusting plane buzzing away in the distance. A guy drives up, stops for a moment for a smoke and then observes that there are no crops to dust. Then he leaves and Cary, having nothing else to contemplate, keeps looking at the plane. It then starts flying toward him and he slowly realizes it is going to try to clip him with its wings. He dives to the ground to avoid it. Then the same thing happens. Then the plane suddenly starts shooting machine gun bullets at him. He runs to a cornfield, (there are crops!) where the plane tries to fertilize him to death. Then he sees a tank truck coming down the road and tries to flag the driver down who decides to run over him instead. Then the plane flies into the tank truck and they both explode while Grant manages to escape.

Questions: 1) Why does Eva send Cary there? She's working for Leo Carroll, so she must know the agent Cary is chasing doesn't exist. Is it just to protect her cover?

2) Would the bad guys really have come up with such a ridiculous method of dispensing with the hero?

3) How is the death supposed to be an 'accident', as they presumably want people to think, especially if machine gun bullets are used?

4) If the pilot has a machine gun, why doesn't he use it from the beginning?

5) Why does the pilot fly his plane into the tank truck? Was this so impossible to avoid?

The film is a lot of fun. But leave your brain home.
2004-05-16
One of Hitchcock's Best
I am a huge Hitchcock fan, and compared to some of his others including the mind-numblingly dull "Suspicion" or the messy "Rebecca," this one shines, along with "Psycho" as one of his best films.

Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, a New York businessman who is suddenly thrust into a conspiracy that plots him as a killer. With no one to trust, and no one who believes him, he goes on the run, fleeing deeper and deeper into the mystery and the peril. On a train to Chicago one night, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), a steely blonde who he becomes involved with both romantically and in this plot against him. The lives of the two intertwine continuously through the rest of the chase, where the characters and plot twist like a winding mountain road, which is a perfect analogy for this movie, which climaxes on Mt. Rushmore, in one of the most gripping, suspenseful climaxes Hitch has ever directed.

This truly is a great movie, in all ways. The music is appropriate and extremely well-fitting, and is in second to the theme of "Psycho" as the best music in a Hitchcock film. The acting is totally on par, especially by the two stars. The chemistry between the two of them on the train is perfect, and adds to the list of memorable pieces of this movie, along with the famous cropduster scene (which had me cringing in fear) and that gripping, edge-of-your-seat, breathtaking climax on Mt. Rushmore. Hitchcock has never directed a climax as good as that. This is his best, second being the gasp-inducing climax to "Psycho." I loved the way the character of Eve Kendall changed so many times, and twisted and turned. At first she appears to just be that girl that will end up by Thornhill's side the whole movie, then she becomes the double-crossing spy, but then she double-crosses the enemies, and we realize so much more about her, that she becomes the most versatile character in the film, played to honest perfection by Eva Marie Saint. And also to mention was the very creepy-looking Martin Landau in a smaller role as one of the spies. Just the look in his eye made him a great antagonist.

This really is a great movie, and as I said, one of Hitchcock's best. Hitch really came a long way from his minimal British productions, all of which seemed to look and feel the same. This is definitely one of the best chase movies around, and has remained as powerful as it was when it first came out.

2000-06-25
One of the best directed thrillers of all time
Roger Thornhill (Grant) is mistaken for another man by a group of foreign spies and after a few unfortunate events, finds himself on the run.

North by Northwest is recognized as one of Alfred Hitchcock's finest films and with the adrenaline soaked narrative and a great central performance it is easy to see why.

Cary Grant (Charade) delivers a sensational portrayal of advertising executive Roger Thornhill, a simple man who is mistaken for someone else. Thornhill is wonderfully sarcastic, very charismatic and plaudits must go to Grant who has created an original hero, an ordinary man who turns himself into an action hero within a short space of time in Alfred Hitchcock's wonderfully realistic world.

Hitchcock's action styled direction is picture perfect for this fast moving thriller. The British director cements the realism down to the ground with his cutting edge close shots and the fast sweeping direction, most noticeable in the landmark plane scene in the fields.

It is easy to overdo action in modern day films and Hitchcock has expertly managed to balance the action alongside the everyday events of the protagonists.

This film is close to resembling a Bond styled genre, though obviously was made before Bond films were. The cocky yet sophisticated Thornhill is well directed by Hitchcock to create the ultimate action hero in a sharply written narrative that is more realistic and entertaining than the Bond spy genre.

The reason this 1959 thriller works is down to all the genres it covers. Through Hitchcock's action and realistic direction, viewers are thrust into action sequences, romantic moments and crime sequences to, providing viewers with the ultimate adventure. Covering different genres is not a stroll in the park as recent films show and can be appreciated here with Hitchcock's wonderful balance.

The balance of the action and romantic genres works well with the whole mystery concept of what is happening to the central character.

The settings are well executed and further add to the intensity of the plot, particularly the field and the climax on Mount Rushmore.

North by Northwest is a top notch action thriller, made so by Hitchcock's direction, great writing and a fine central character.
2008-10-29
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