North by Northwest: 50th Anniversary Edition: DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

10/23/2009 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review
“North by Northwest: 50th Anniversary Edition”

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Ernest Lehman, 136 minutes, unrated.

Now here is something worth celebrating--the 50th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s great thriller, North by Northwest, which looks and sounds terrific on Blu-ray disc.

The film reminds us what most of today’s thrillers could be (there are exceptions) if only Hollywood concentrated more on story and character development, rather than on the next natural disaster to be created by computer simulation.

For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s about a case of mistaken identity. Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for the mysterious George Kaplin by a group of spies who deals in the exportation of U.S. government secrets. Thornhill is abducted by these spies, brought to the estate of Philip Vandamm (James Mason)--who heads the operation--and is interrogated by him. Thornhill denies he’s Kaplin, but soon is forced to become him in a bizarre effort to save his life.

Along the way, the twists and turns are harrowing--he’s framed for a murder, sought after by the police, meets the cool and gorgeous Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), falls in love with her, gets double-crossed by her, takes two bullets in the chest by her, escapes the dips of a crop dusting plane (an iconic sequence), finds himself hanging from the stony lips of dead presidents on Mount Rushmore, and ultimately wins the girl.

And what a girl. Saint is so dead-on sizzling with Grant, the simmering heat created between them could melt a lesser star’s implants. Hitchcock knew he couldn’t pair Grant with a strong woman like Joan Crawford or Bette Davis--it never would have worked, and in his career, Grant never was paired with either of them. Instead, Grant needed someone bright, pretty and maleable. He got that in Saint.

Propelled not by explosions, but by its wit and its performances, “North by Northwest” has become over the years a blueprint for filmmakers in its technical brilliance. While it’s a shame that that blueprint is greatly overlooked by the majority of today’s directors, who seem determined to turn today’s heroes into nail-chomping, bullet-biting, harpoon-hurling cartoons, there has been a shift. Creeping back onto the screen in, say, the “Bond” and “Bourne” franchises are savvy, intelligent characters with enough charisma to give us hope that being deadly and suave doesn’t necessarily equate an early box-office death.

Grade: A

View the original trailer here:

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