North by Northwest
Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
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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Pleasant and Entertaining
No, they don't make them like this anymore, but fortunately you can still rent a copy or better yet go see it in a theater somewhere. Cary Grant is very good as the baffled ad exec being chased by, and chasing, international spies in a case of mistaken identity. He never loses his cool and manages to shift effortlessly between comic and serious, making it all look easy. Good casting all around except maybe for Jessie Royce Landis who plays Grant's mother - not that she's bad in the role, but she doesn't quite look the part owing, perhaps, to the fact that she was actually younger (by 10 months) than Grant. Movie audiences back then took Grant to be ageless, I suppose, and perhaps he was. James Mason is good as the suave villain.
"The Man Who Sneezed in Lincoln's Nose"
Alfred Hitchcock knew a recipe for a perfect thriller because he had made many but among his films, "North by Northwest" (1959) stands out as a great combination of suspense, sex, and humor. The film is based on a case of mistaken identity that in a course of a few days makes a likable (even if slightly arrogant) Manhattan ad-man Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) the object of a cross country spy hunt. Having no clue what is happening to him, Thornhill will be kidnapped by the spies, brought to an unknown mansion and after the questioning forced to get drunk. He will get arrested for a stealing a car and drunk driving of which he has no recollection. It is just the beginning. Next, he finds himself in the UN building talking to a man who drops dead in the middle of the conversation in front of hundreds of people. The worst part – the man is murdered and Thornhill has the murder weapon, the knife in his hand. Both, the police and the spies are on his trail and his only hope is to escape NYC by train where a very sexy blonde named Eve (Eva Marie Saint) is ready to help him. Their encounter leads to one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed without any sexual act involved.

The film is packed with the witty and funny dialogs and one- liners as well as with artful and imaginative set pieces including Grant running for his life across the prairie from an evil crop-duster and the climatic chase on Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock who always wanted to make a film with two scenes – a chase on the face of a president and the attempt to wake up the Peru Ambassador during the assembly in UN who turned to be dead, had his dreams fulfilled with "North by Northwest" which he suggested should be called "The Man Who Sneezed in Lincoln's Nose". Among many of film's pleasures are Eva Marie Saint as sexy stranger on a train and James Mason and young Martin Landau as a duet of villains with a complicated relationship.
This thought has crossed our minds
What if it were us against the world? What if one day we were to find that we were rogues on the run from people who are telling us that we are rogues on the run? I've imagined this scenario many times and Hitchcock nows how to tell it better than any.

This is one of the first great thrillers, so many twists, so many turns that the viewer could miss the clues to vital information very easily so assure that you pay attention to both the primary things and the secondary things.

There is really not much more to say about this film without revealing too much apart from Cary Grant giving another great performance as the guy on the run.

There is some great, cheesy and surprisingly witty pieces of dialog in here and by the films conclusion everything is pieced together neatly.

North By Northwest= 8.5/10
Superb Hitchcock Thriller!
"North By Northwest" is another of Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers where an ordinary man is put into an extraordinary situation. As in most of these movies, the hero has to quickly adapt to his situation or perish.

This time it is Cary Grant who is thrust into a world of international intrigue when is mistaken by villain James Mason for an American operative named George Kaplan (the film's "McGuffan" by the way). Along the way he is seduced by Mason's mistress (Eva Marie Saint) while being pursued by Mason and his cronies from New York to Chicago to South Dakota and ultimately to Mount Rushmore for the film's climax.

"North By Northwest" is full of classic Hitchcock moments. First,there is Grant's frustration and fear as he tries to explain to Mason that he is not the person they are seeking. Next, the scene in the cornfield where Grant is isolated and attacked by a plane is pure Hitchcock. Then we have the art auction where he cleverly escapes Mason's henchmen and finally, the finale at Mount Rushmore in a scene reminiscent of a similar one in "Sabotage" (1942) (which took place at the top of the Statue of Liberty).

The cast, as in most Hitchcock films is excellent. Grant is understandably confused and frightened as the the hero, Eva Marie Saint has never been sexier as the femme fatale, James Mason is suave and sinister as the villain and Martin Landau in an early role, is good as Mason's chief henchman. Hitchcock regular Leo G. Carroll is cold heartedly sinister as the "professor". Jesse Royce Landis as Grant's mother (she was about Grant's real age) is wasted and unnecessary to the plot.

The only problem that I have with this and other Hitchcock films is his over reliance on back projection and soundstage "exteriors". Other than that. "North By Northwest" has to be considered as one of Hitchcock's best. Watch for Hitchcock's hilarious cameo appearance at the end of the opening credits.
My favorite movie!
This movie is my favorite movie ever. I have seen it over twenty times, own a copy on video, and I never grow tired of seeing it. Ernest Lehman wrote an impeccable script, and the soundtrack of the film drew me into the movie music of its composer, Bernard Herrmann, who is a god, I think, officially. Grant and Mason are wonderful, and who could resist hearing their famous voices together in the same film. I love the way James Mason says, "Rapid City, South Da-ko-ta." The dialogue is quite funny. Hitchcock creates several great scenes besides the Mount Rushmore and the famous cropdusting scenes. For instance, the scene in which Roger Thornhill and his mother are on the elevator with Van Damme's henchmen, who are out to kill him. Only Hitchcock could make this so superbly. As the elevator descends, the music grows more intense and suspenseful, until the breaking point, at which Roger's mother says "You gentlemen aren't really trying to kill my son, are you?" To which the henchmen respond with side-splitting laughter, and are echoed by all the people on the elevator, including Roger's mother (played splendidly by Jessye Royce Landis), who laughs loudest of all.

The house which Van Damme resides in at the end is quite architecturally unique, as much as the house in Glen Cove is elegant and done quite well. There are some character actors in this film who will remind you of other roles they had, like the guy who played "Chief" in the hit series, "Get Smart," or the guy who plays one of the henchmen, who was the psychiatrist in a movie about a character played by Anthony Perkins who had a mental breakdown.

I admire Martin Landau's work in this film, and think he is severely underrated. Thank goodness he got some recognition for "Ed Wood." The trick of rubbing a pad and paper to find out an address as employed by Thornhill in the hotel room amazed me as a kid. Notice Thornhill (Grant) whistles "Singin' in the Rain" when he pretends to shower. Also, notice Hitchcock's cameo at the beginning when the titles are being displayed, he walks up to a bus door right as it is being closed, and as he walks forward, his title, "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock," disappears horizontally, left-to-right.

This movie is best watched from the very beginning before Leo the Lion's roar, while eating coconut cake (with 3 layers and real coconut, not angel flake). I really have tried it that way, several times.

The panic scene that ensues after the real Mr. Townsend is knifed by one of Van Damme's henchmen in the United Nations Building is great cinematography. The ladies standing up, in shock, the photographer, the person saying, "He's got a knife," and Thornhill's protestations of innocence go together to make a great scene. I am reminded of the panic scene near the beginning of Hitchcock's "Saboteur," in which the munitions plant begins burning down. You watch "Saboteur," and you'll see what I mean.

Eva Marie Saint is gorgeous in this and I wish I had been around back then in the wonderful fifties. Her red colored dress is particularly beautiful. All the dialogue in the love scenes is great, and of course, Hermann's musical number, "Conversation Piece," is quite good. I have the soundtrack on CD.

Of all the lines in the film, I like this one the best "Did you know you overplay your various roles, Mr. Kaplan? First you're the typical Madison Avenue man accused of a crime you know you didn't commit, now you're the peevish lover, stung by jealousy and betrayal." It goes something like that, and is spoken by Van Damme (James Mason).
Best Hitchcock Movie
If anyone has doubts about the power of mistaken identity and its place in fiction, look no further than this film. The many hokey takes on it through the years have diminished its very real power as a storytelling device. As a comedy trick, it is cheap and dull. But as a dramatic trick... there is real force behind it. Everyone dreads being alone in the time of a crisis and not having anyone believe them and feeling like they are sinking further and further into a pit that's growing ever deeper and deeper. A good filmmaker can use the idea of mistaken identity in a tense situation to tackle these fears. And Hitchcock most certainly is a few steps above a good filmmaker.

In fact, he is at his best here. Vertigo may be his best shot film from an artistic point of view. Rear Window (which I would have done a review of for this series of critical takes if I had seen it in time and is quite excellent) is his most interestingly shot movie perspective-wise. But this is Hitchcock showing his truest colors. All the tropes of his directorial style are on full display and are in fine shape. I often joke to myself (I'm alone a lot) about Hitchcock's love of his use of his specific style dashboard cam no matter the situation, but it can be an effective cinematic tool to increase tension, make the area feel more claustrophobic, and increase focus on the characters.

To give a one-sentence synopsis: An advertising executive is mistaken for a secret agent from the authorities and must go on the run. What follows is a wild yet deft 136 minutes of what I believe to be Hitchcock's most obviously entertaining film. Pulses pound as the characters move like chess pieces around a well-written, twisting and turning storyline that causes many iconic scenes, the most famous of which being when Thornhill (The protagonist) runs from a crop duster craft. It is everything an action scenes should be, and the isolation kicks every element up a few notches. It is the favorite scene of many, including me.

Every element, from the action to the mystery, is well-executed. The dialogue is interesting, as it is in many Hitchcock movies. In fact, one of Hitchcock's most underrated talents is writing-dialogue. He may not be a Sorkin or a Woody Allen, but he knows that dialogue is the key to making interesting characters that are more than just pieces in a puzzle. He may have believed that actors are cattle, but one can tell from watching his films that he knows the importance of characters. His dialogue is natural yet profound, and while depicting catch phrases and fads from that era would make the movies seem dated, the intelligent, understated way he talks about the issues of his time here and there make the movies seem like they are proudly representing their time. The difference is the difference between decay and grandeur, between the many ephemeral leaders of Rome and the never-fading Roman culture.

The acting is more than fine. Cary Grant, one of the legends, puts on a believable and thorough performance. In some of the quieter scenes, it is what makes the film work. Eva Marie Saint, another legend (and a blonde, as most women are in Hitchcock movies) adds spice and edge to a role that would have been ordinary had it been performed by a less actress.

On a side note, I don't think I'm the only one who finds it just a bit creepy to watch someone act on the screen when they're now dead, like Grant, and even more bizarre when they're still alive but have aged quite a bit since their role, like Ms. Saint, who is alive and in her nineties at the time of this review.

Hitchcock is known as the Mater of Suspense and this film shows you why; it takes all sorts of twists and turns. One of the trademarks of Hitchcock films is their ability to appear like they're one type of film before seamlessly yet starkly transitioning to another. The Birds went from a screwball Pythonesque comedy to a horror film, Psycho from a heist film to a dark twisted thriller. I have seen no other director that can pull off this trick so well. In this film, we go from a more mysterious psychological movie to more of an espionage adventure tale; it's not as jarring of a shift, but it is a shift nonetheless.

The score represents Hitchcock's best on that front. Scores like this are the reason why an unscored movie like The Birds or a softly scored flick like Rear Window come as such a shock. This score is big and booming and dynamic. Yes, the fifties were riddled with over the top scores (it's actually one of the best ways to identify a film as being from that decade) but Hitchcock knows how to use it in a way that cuts the through the inherent cheesiness of the idea (though I still can't stifle a chuckle every time it gets real intense) and turn it into an impressive cinematic tool the underscore the many important moments of the film. Give the soundtrack a listen; it is perhaps even more impressive when give a listen away from the film.

If I was given one word and only one word to describe this movie, I would choose iconic. This is the sort of movie that deserves to be watched, to be passed down from generation to generation and held up as one of the hallmarks of great cinema. Watch and take in what has been honored for generations and has, like landmarks of many other sorts, affected the lives of many, including me, during that time.
My very favorite movie
This has long been my all-time favorite movie. To me, it's just flawless. I love Hitchcock and I love Cary Grant, and they're at their best in this film. I love everything about this film. Scene after scene is just perfect. Even the lesser details are wonderful: The music score is just magnificent! The opening credits are great! The Hitchcock cameo is great! The plot is a treat, which I won't spoil at all.

OK, it's not Hitchcock's most profound. But I don't think that diminishes it one bit. For what it is, for what it's trying to be, it's just flawless.

(and here's a bonus line to satisfy the picky software)
A top notch Hitchcock film...score: 9 (out of 10)
I am not much of a Hitchcock guru as some people are mainly because I find most of his films as being the same type of scenario - human chasing something or someone, or human being chased by something or someone. No where is this more evident than in this movie. The film opens when Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) comes out of his Madison Avenue office to attend a social gathering at a local bar. While he is in the bar, two thugs mistake him for a double agent and, of course, he is abducted. He is transferred to the whereabouts of a certain Mr. Lester Townsend (James Mason). I am not going to give out any more details except from there on out, Thornhill winds up being chased and chases the culprits, who want to see his demise, to the final scene at Mount Rushmore. Along the way, he finds time for romance with a certain lady friend (Eva Marie Saint). The best part of the movie happens when Thornhill is pursued through a cornfield by a crop duster - a classic Hitchcock scene.
A one of a kind Hitchcockian experience
Having seen most of Alfred Hitchcock's works I must admit that North by Northwest has quickly become my favorite, even though it may not possess the typical Hitchcockian motives. What's more, It could as well be placed in the same box as the James Bond franchise, because it may in some aspects remind of the well-known spy movies (Cary Grant could have been a perfect 007, with his elegance, handsome face and fantastic overall presence). However, I must say that it combines a better-developed structure, more wit in its dialogues and greater suspenseful sequences than any Bond movie does. Also, personally I thought that Eva Marie Saint was much more appealing than all of the Bond girls combined.

The main plot introduces the whole movie as a serious and thrilling mystery of a man, who is mistaken for an agent and embarks on a journey to clear his name. Still, apart from that, there are various comedic aspects of the film, along with my favorite scene in the first few minutes, when Roger Thornhill (played brilliantly by Cary Grant) is being held captive, forced to get drunk and then ride a car. As for the romantic section, there is the ongoing chemistry between the devious Eve Kendell and Thornhill.

All those aspects make up for an amazing and most enjoyable plot. The ideal mix of all the conjoint, yet rather opposing, factors marks the true genius of the director himself. Even though all of Hitchcock's pictures are undisputed masterpieces, North by Northwest captivated me the most. I haven't really seen a movie that offers so much - perfect plot-subplots combination, intelligent script, memorable scenes, many distinct sceneries, tremendous acting (great supporting roles by James Mason, Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau) and, most importantly, the building of suspense until the very last minute. It is also the best Hitchcock- Grant collaboration you will find.

Even though the picture didn't win an Oscar in any of the three categories that it was nominated in, it surely could have won an Award for the best picture of the year. Or the decade. Or the century. Because every time you watch this fantastic movie you will be able to find a new part that will catch your attention. That is the true genius of Hitchcock. He made a movie that brings out everything that is the greatest about the motion picture industry, that is the ability to develop a masterwork that can be interesting to every single person in the world.
The Greatest Mystery/Thriller Of All Time.
Alfred Hitchcock's speciality is thrillers. Some are straight thrillers, some conjoin with romances, horror, this conjoins with mystery. Hitchcock has combined these two, but has never done a better and more exciting film. Nobody has ever or will ever do a better, more exciting film. Having said that, is this better than, say, Vertigo or Psycho? Arguably. But Vertigo is a romance/thriller, Psycho is a horror/thriller and NBNW is a mystery/thriller. This does surpass other movies of its kind like Rear Window and The Maltese Flacon. The general story is a classic case of mistaken identity where a complex, top-secret government plan is under wraps. The movie grabs you by your collar the in the first two minutes and never lets go as the thrills and curves never stop coming at you full force. The main character (Cary Grant) careens to different ends of America as he must keep up with the game of cat-and-mouse he dies to get out of. Unlike Rear Window and The Maltese Flacon, NBNW features chase and danger sequences that add more excitement to its already mammoth exhilarating plot.

Screw running, screw the gym. This movie can get your heart rate going in a much more enjoyable way.
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