During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.
We had no expectations coming into “North by Northwest”. Sometime ago (before we began this project), we bought a small box set of Alfred Hitchcock movies. We started with “Rear Window” which we both enjoyed and stopped with “Vertigo” which we both hated. As such, we never got around to watching the other classics in the collection, including this one. After finally seeing “North by Northwest”, it is definitely better than “Vertigo” but probably not as great as “Rear Window”.
“North by Northwest” felt like a Bond film without a 007. Cary Grant leads as Roger Thornhill, an ad man by day falsely accused of being “George Kaplan” by night. Kaplan is a supposed government agent on the trail of Phillip Vandam (James Mason), a smuggler of government secrets. When kidnapped one evening by Vandam and his cohorts, Thornhill narrowly manages to escape, but in an attempt to clear his name, he ends up falsely accused of assassinating a United Nations official. Forced to flee, he only falls deeper into the movie’s intrigues.
Even now, “North by Northwest” is a beautifully constructed movie. Some of Hitchcock’s shots remain breathtaking. With lots of location shoots across the continental United States, there is a road movie element to the entire affair that fills the film with authenticity. When the characters made their way to Chicago, I could have sworn they were standing next to a statue that Diane and I just saw in our early April visit to the city. I was also convinced the villain’s evil lair on the side of Mt. Rushmore was real, but that turned out to be a bit of movie magic.
Cary Grant was fantastic. At first, I was annoyed that he was “just an ad man” yet still succeeding at the whole international spy thing. His performance won me over anway. His charm, his look, his suit – they all screamed “man you wish you could be” while he was caught in a situation I would never wish for. His charm and confidence seemed to increase as the film progressed with his earliest scenes being somewhat inconsistent with the middle and latter part of the movie. A minor nitpick at most.
Eva Marie Saint’s Eve Kendall, the romantic interest, was also charming. It was nice to see sex and sex appeal be more overt for a change. If I did not know to expect more from a female lead, I would have been shocked how the movie implied their initial relationship was only going to be a random one-night stand on a train. The fact that they fall in love at all afterward was cheesy and that Eve Kendall ending up as just being romantic bait for the villain was a bit insulting. But both were expected and neither ruined anything about the movie.
Truth be told, as much as we enjoyed watching the movie, it was more fun than anything else. That’s not a knock by any stretch but it does make it hard for me to write at length. It’s a pre-007 007 movie that deserves all the attention you are willing to give it.
What more is there to say?
For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.