Saturday, June 27, 2009

North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock, 1959, (8.0*)
The master of suspense as they like to call him branched out to pure action-adventure of the Hollywood variety with this audience favorite of his. Cary Grant proved not too old to play that era's equivalent of an everyman thrown into a Bondish plot involving secret agents from both sides. Eva Marie Saint is the bait used to ensure his entrapment, so there was more than a little romance as well, as the two spend the night together on a train, and as she says 'with nothing to do since I don't like the book I brought.'

This is the old fish out of water tale, with Roger Thornhill (Grant) as the fish. There are some baffling scenes, there just for action. My fave has Roger being chased on a deserted South Dakoka highway by a low-flying crop duster which apparently is trying to either chase him to death or catch him in a prop as they have no guns or grenades. The pilot manages to hit the only object visible for miles: a gasoline tanker strategically placed on the highway by Hitch. Later the two heroes end up climbing all over the heads carved at Mt. Rushmore without any equipment - nice stunt work. These shots and others, such as a pine forest, have a dreamy, special effect quality that has a sort of b-movie, studio look but also the stuff of matinee Saturdays, when you needed a little fantasy to escape the gray cold war world outside.

With Grant, we had enough humor that we knew not to take this all too seriously, and we also had Hitchcock's most-used actor Leo G. Carroll as the wise old watchdog. This is the Indy Jones of its era, and though it will look slow and tame by comparison, it still has enough action and plot twists to provide an entertaining popcorn flick as along with Vertigo, it's one of the best two of Hitchcock's Hollywood era. This is #30 at IMDB, #49 in the Critics 1000. Oscar® nominations for editing, sound, and screenplay.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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