Hi all.Hope you are all well, and have a great weekend lined up. I have next week off work. I’m so happy because we are enjoying a heatwave here in the UK. Ice cream and sun cream are lined up!
For many people, North By Northwest is Alfred Hitchcock’s best film. It isn’t hard to see why it is so highly thought of. This film contains all of the essential elements of his films – suspense, thrills, mistaken identity, an innocent wrongly accused, comedy and a cool blonde. In short, this film really is the perfect package.
I love this film so much. This is a film in which something is always happening. In this film the characters are always on the move. From the opening titles, designed by Saul Bass and accompanied by one of Bernard Herrmann’s best scores, the characters are on the move and don’t really stop until the final scene.
Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant)is a Madison Avenue advertising man. He has a very good life, a life that he believes that he is in complete control of. His ordered life is turned on its head when he is mistaken for a C.I.A agent, called George Kaplan.
Suave spy, Phillip Vandamm (a sinister James Mason) has been aware of Kaplan following him and his group for some time. He wants Kaplan dead. Thornhill can’t persuade him that this is a genuine case of mistaken identity and that he is not the man he thinks he is.
So begins a non stop chase across the country. Thornhill tries to evade the authorities, after Vandamm frames him for murder. Thornhill also tries to get someone else to believe him that Vandamm is trying to kill him.
Enter the resourceful, mysterious and cool blonde, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). Eve helps Thornhill when he gets into difficulty aboard a train that she is travelling on. But can Thornhill trust her or not?
A C.I.A official, known only as the professor (Leo G. Carroll), finds out about Thornhill’s situation and tries to help him. The professor is also on the Vandamm case and he also has an agent working right under Vandamm’s nose.
I love how many things in this film actually defy logic when you think about them long enough. Somehow though you never seem to realise the illogic when you are watching the film, it’s only afterwards when you suddenly stop and think about some of the things you’ve just watched. I’m thinking mainly of the scene where Thornhill is forcibly made drunk in order to be got rid of. If Vandamm wants him dead so bad, why not just shoot him?
The same goes for the famous crop duster sequence, why not just get him out to that road and shoot him? Yet the illogic of it all somehow works when you watch. This is a testament to Hitch, in that he can make you so invested in the story that certain things don’t strike you as odd until much later.
I have to say that I actually think the scene where Thornhill watches that glass of booze get poured out is quite chilling. Thornhill is going to be forced to drink such large amounts and he has no way of being able to fight back against this. That’s pretty grim.
There’s so much to enjoy about this film. From the great performances throughout, the exciting Bernard Herrmann score, and two of the most famous of all Hitchcock sequences – the crop duster chase and the suspenseful finale up on Mount Rushmore. These two scenes have gone on to become two of the most famous in cinema history.
The film also has two big twists concerning the identity of two main characters, and that really keeps you trying to figure out who to trust, or who to take at face value.
The film is also very funny in places. Grant reels off many comic lines and does the funniest and one of the best drunk impressions I’ve ever seen. Jessie Royce Landis is a hoot as Thornhill’s mother. Mrs. Thornhill doesn’t believe her sons story and has quite a few laughs at his expense. Some supportive mother he has! 🙂
Mason is chilling and menacing throughout. He plays a character who won’t get his own hands dirty, but who has no qualms about ordering someone to be killed. You know he is a nasty piece of work.
Martin Landau provides solid support as Vandamm’s loyal henchman. He lurks in the background of many scenes and you can see him desperate to start hurting Thornhill and other characters. Landau plays this guy as a real sadist.
My favourite scenes are the following. Thornhill and Vandamm’s first meeting, I love where they circle around each other sizing each other up. The Mount Rushmore finale. The entire section aboard the train. Roger and Eve’s dinner talk. The auction. The drunk scene at the police station. Thornhill trying to rescue Eve. Eve and Roger’s goodbye at the train station. The crop duster attack. The scene in the Mount Rushmore restaurant.
I can happily watch pretty much all of Hitch’s films again and again, but this one in particular is one that I can enjoy over and over again. It is such a good film and so seamlessly put together. It looks amazing, from the photography, to the elegant clothes and Technicolor. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray, to see it looking at its best.
Are you a fan of this film? Please share your comments below. Never seen it? What are you waiting for?