North by Northwest (DVD, 2009, 2-Disc Set, Special Edition) Reviews
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North by Northwest (DVD, 2009, 2-Disc Set, Special Edition)

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See Grant Run.

Sep 9, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great performance by Cary Grant and plenty of suspense.

Cons:North By Northwest? No cons here!

The Bottom Line: Perfect hurricane riding out entertainment.


And so it came to pass that on Saturday, the 4th of September 2004, I was in the midst of getting a severe case of cabin fever from being cooped up and waiting for hurricane (Sgt Hulka Voice on) Frances (Hulka voice off). After seeing all the weather reports I'd wanted to for a while, I left my housemates for the weekend in the living room and flipped on the TV in the family room. Flipped over to Turner Classic Movies and saw that North By Northwest would be on in about 15 minutes. Perfect! Been a while since I'd seen that Hitchcock classic and right now would be a great time for a refresher viewing.

So I was able to escape for a few hours into one of Hitch's masterworks of suspense. Less enclosed than many of his other films; North By Northwest takes us across the country from New York to the Midwest to Mount Rushmore.

Cary Grant in one of his best-known roles provides the humanity to the film. Grant, a Hitchcock perennial up to that point anyway, plays Roger Thornhill, mild mannered ad exec from New York City. Thornhill starts out the film on one of his normal days. Perfectly normal that is, until he gets mistaken for a Roger Kaplan. This leads to him being kidnapped by enemy agents who have mistaken him for an American spy (the aforementioned Kaplan). Thornhill eventually escapes in a stolen car. But is mistaken for a drunk driver and car thief by the cops. Even his doting mother won't believe him about Kaplan. He tries to track down a lead on what's happening to him to the United Nations and winds up framed for murder. So now Thornhill must hit the road in order to prove his innocence and find out what is going on.

Of course, this leads to many memorable scenes throughout the film. We get scenes with the femme fatale Eva Marie Saint as well as scenes of planned espionage and of course the climactic battle on Mount Rushmore. And let's not forget, the crop duster scene, which doubtlessly inspired Bush to issue his now famous post-911 warning about "suspicious people with Crop dusters".

Slowly, Roger becomes less the mild mannered exec and more the hardass spy he needs to be in order to survive and thwart the villains (one of whom is named VanDam, makes one wonder if Hitchcock was psychic in anticipating future Hollywood badness). Mason plays VanDam quite well and there are also good performances from Saint and Martin Landau.

The best thing about NBN is the suspense. Some spoilsports might complain that this film seems tame compared to more recent spy ventures. If anything, it's more suspenseful than many of them, mainly because one is never sure what will happen next. This holds true throughout the film all the way down to the last shot.

There are also some genuine moments of terror throughout the movie, including the aforementioned crop duster scene (you feel for poor Roger as he hides briefly in the tall grass to escape the plane's machine guns) and the struggle on Mount Rushmore at the end is not recommended for those with vertigo (no pun intended) or fear of heights.

In the overall Hitchcock canon, NBN ranks with Psycho, the aforementioned Vertigo, Notorious and Rear Window as a genuine classic. Like those other films, it benefits from the master's touch in its mix of terror, humor and compassion. In fact, it serves as a perfect example of why so many spy thrillers today fail. The reason being that too many of them are focused on stuff blowing up (even the recent Bond pictures sadly fall into this category) rather than on genuine characters and thrills. The closest to a modern competitor to NBN would be the 1998 Robert DeNiro thriller Ronin. But no matter how you slice it, North By Northwest is still considered a classic today and there is good reason for that. Perfect hurricane riding out entertainment.


Recommend this product? Yes


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