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Overall Rating
4.68

Awesome79.8%
Worth A Look: 14.14%
Average: 2.02%
Pretty Bad: 2.02%
Total Crap: 2.02%

5 reviews, 69 user ratings


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North by Northwest
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by iF Magazine

"All of Hitchcock's classic themes are here."
5 stars

Picking the best Alfred Hitchcock movie is kind of like choosing the best star in heaven - there are so many and they're pretty much all incredibly good. The sheer craft and thought that goes in to any Hitchcock movie should be sufficient to embarrass any self-respecting film maker working today - they simply don't make them like that any more.

PSYCHO has probably won the most contemporary notoriety of all of Hitchcock's work, while VERTIGO has emerged from a cold initial reception in Hollywood to be the film that most critics proclaim as Hitchcock's masterpiece. But NORTH BY NORTHWEST is probably the most entertaining movie Hitchcock ever delivered.


The title doesn't always leap to mind for the average movie-goer, but if they were shown any one of the movie's indelible set pieces, from Cary Grant's bumbled appearance at the United Nations building where he's framed for murder, to his unforgettable encounter with a crop duster in a barren Midwestern cornfield, to the movie's fantastic climax on the gigantic faces of Mt. Rushmore - well, any one of these images would shout "Hitchcock!" loud enough for a movie-goer to recognize the hand of the Master at work.


All of Hitchcock's classic themes are here: paranoia, mistaken identity, fear of authority, and the recurring motif of a man on the run after being accused of a crime he did not commit.


Screen legend Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a New York advertising executive who makes the mistake of responding to a page for a George Kaplan - who happens to be a nonexistent identity created by a government security agency as a ruse to flush out a turncoat named Van Damme (James Mason). Van Damme's agents hustle Thornhill into a car and take him to Van Damme, who smoothly threatens the ad exec while Thornhill protests that he's not the man Van Damme thinks he is. Thornhill barely escapes the encounter with his life, and he spends the rest of the movie being pursued by police who think he's murdered a U.N. official and Van Damme and his men, who believe he's superspy George Kaplan shadowing them with plans to undo their espionage syndicate.


On the way Thornhill encounters Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), a seemingly friendly and very attractive young lady who offers to hide him from the police while the two take a train to Chicago. Of course, Eve doesn't turn out to be who Thornhill thinks she is, either, and the audience is left dangling as to just who Thornhill can trust until the final third of the picture.


Cary Grant could be preternaturally charming in just about anything, but the combination of Hitchock's elegant shooting style and Ernest Lehman's endlessly witty script were perhaps the perfect vehicle for the star - he's never looked more graceful or debonair, even sprinting across a dust-covered cornfield or hanging from the contours of a giant presidential face on Mt. Rushmore. Equally smooth is James Mason's villain Van Damme -- like so many other elements of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, he was the prototype for every sophisticated villain in the James Bond movie series, an urbane, cool European who always underestimated his quarry.


As a digital transfer, NORTH BY NORTHWEST has never looked or sounded better. The film looks almost supernaturally pristine without a trace of grain, and the Dolby 5.1 sound mix is spectacular -- particularly isolated as a separate audio track, Bernard Herrmann's magnificent score (one of the finest ever written) has never sounded better.


The extras, while well-intentioned, are something else. With the superb documentaries on previous Hitchcock releases like PSYCHO, VERTIGO and THE BIRDS to contend with, the stakes are high, but the NORTH BY NORTHWEST documentary is so-so at best. Anecdotes from Eva Marie Saint and particularly Martin Landau (who does a spectacular Hitchcock impression) are noteworthy, as is commentary from art director Robert Boyle. But sadly, legendary screenwriter Ernest Lehman's contribution is largely a bust. Lehman does a feature length commentary that's halting and largely restates the obvious for two hours, with a few insights into the development of the production which unfortunately are repeated wholesale in the documentary.


The bane of productions like this documentary is that the major players have passed on and often those who haven't, like Lehman, are just too old and far from the act of working on the picture to really offer commentary that doesn't try a modern viewer's patience. The razor-sharp wit you'd expect from the man who wrote NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS and adapted Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is missing, and Lehman also forgets the cardinal rule of toupee-wearing: make sure you destroy the photographic evidence that you were ever balding.

The NORTH BY NORTHWEST 'making of' documentary is littered with black and white photos of a nearly bald Lehman chatting with Hitchcock, from which we frequently cut back to a present day Lehman with a luxuriantly full head of white hair. You'd think the writer of one of the world's greatest mystery thrillers would have covered his tracks better.-- Jeff Bond

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3057&reviewer=119
originally posted: 02/24/01 15:59:14
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User Comments

2/15/15 john north by shitwest 1 stars
6/24/12 Josie Cotton is a goddess Top-natch thriller! 5 stars
11/27/11 joshuaprater1979 One of the best ever! 5 stars
6/01/08 PAUL SHORTT EXCELLENT COMEDY THRILLER THAT BRILLIANTLY EXPLORES THE NOTION OF BOTH TRUTH AND IDENTITY 5 stars
1/28/08 proper amateur film critic Brilliant chase comedy-thriller 5 stars
12/15/07 Pamela White suspense and drama this is a keeper 5 stars
9/05/07 R.W. Welch How to make a movie in one easy lesson. Hitchcock's slickest work. 5 stars
8/06/07 Lee Wen David My fav Grant's movies alongside AATR 5 stars
7/22/07 gr117 <3 My 2nd favorite Hitchcock and one of my overall faves. 5 stars
4/24/07 MP Bartley Urbane, witty and thrilling - if slightly drawn out 4 stars
4/11/07 zenshark One of the greatest films in general. 5 stars
3/20/07 action movie fan still stunning-top notch hitchcock-crop duster scene is excellent 5 stars
1/08/07 Tim This movie has an outstanding quality in both the common viewer point and the cinematic one 5 stars
10/02/06 Joycelyn I think it was very interesting for its time 4 stars
9/12/06 Gino Renner This movie was OK. It is not an up to date film but it still keeps you interested. 3 stars
4/01/06 kerry fuck hitchcock 1 stars
2/23/06 Marlon Brando This is a great movie. Alfred Hitchcock had fun making this film. First-rate suspense! 5 stars
9/14/05 Blutarsky The master's most entertaining film, bar none. 5 stars
9/02/05 Zack full of twist from the master of suspense 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Grant can't act straight but luckily Hitchcock is awesome director. 4 stars
5/02/05 dwarzel Excellent, right up until the idiotic last scene 4 stars
4/19/05 Indrid Cold Very quaint by today's standards. Obviously it was stunning at the time. 4 stars
3/03/05 dbx Classic, some amazing scenes, beautiful house at the end, but not at all hitchcock's best. 4 stars
7/12/04 Daveman Typifies Hitchcock's oeuvre, an unpredictable labyrinth of suspense and surprise twists. 5 stars
7/01/04 Leonard Rees One of the all time greats 5 stars
5/01/04 Read it, Seen it, Done it Hitchcock at his best, Cary Grant has never been better 5 stars
4/06/04 Gray brillent but jumps a little weird in the end 5 stars
4/01/04 sansho Sensuous, witty, gripping; possibly the most entertaining film of all 5 stars
3/27/04 ann berry A classic by any standards for suspnese and entertainment 5 stars
3/15/04 ashley GREAT cinematography 5 stars
1/27/04 Ultron A solid, but always overated movie. 4 stars
1/24/04 CC Classic 4 stars
1/22/04 Aleksandar a great movie 5 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Awesome. 5 stars
12/11/03 john with all the praise I find it a bit overrated - still good though and a sensational score! 4 stars
11/22/03 ross hendrick the greatest suspense film ever made 5 stars
8/29/03 Dae_RaeAustin Set the standards for Indiana Jones And James Bond movies 5 stars
8/07/03 Putski Okay Hitchcock Film 2 stars
4/07/03 Shadaan Felfeli This film gave birth to the Bond films 5 stars
4/07/03 John Coop Outstanding 5 stars
12/26/02 christian a genuine classic 5 stars
7/26/02 Bluto Cary Grants best performance, Great from beginning to end. 5 stars
4/26/02 Charles Tatum Dull and overrated; Hitchcock screwed up often 3 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Mr. Grant, we miss you. LOVE that tunnel scene. 5 stars
2/17/02 Clarance eah... 2 stars
1/05/02 Magnum Craphole It's a good Hitchcock political thriller, with more humor than usual. 5 stars
12/19/01 Hum perfect 5 stars
12/10/01 Andrew Carden Really Good Film...but Lacks Momentus Work. 4 stars
12/09/01 Keith GREAT MOVIE! Grant is hilarious in the drunken car chase. 5 stars
11/26/01 The Bomb 69 I hate old movies but this one made me a believer!!! 5 stars
10/19/01 Sandra Shevey This is my favourite film of all time. To me, it is the perfect film. 5 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith Saw on the BIG screen! Great Hitchcock with Cary Grant and James Mason! 5 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat "North By Northwest" is Hitchcock's 2nd best. "To Catch A Thief" is still the best. 5 stars
8/07/01 E-Funk Hitch's COOLEST. Cary Grant is swave and funny...a good time at the movies. 5 stars
8/03/01 shankster Sets the standard for plot, acting, script, even humor. Cinematic perfection. 5 stars
7/03/01 Boomshanka I found it a great film, but I guess it lacked something for me personally. Worth seeing. 4 stars
6/23/01 taj Suspense flicks don't get much better than this... 5 stars
6/23/01 Senor Suave Great flick on all levels. 5 stars
6/07/01 D. Bower This is one of my favorite Hitchcock films 4 stars
5/31/01 Podgous A great story from the KING. 5 stars
3/05/01 ongoldenblonde stand the test of time 5 stars
2/23/01 Tyrone THIS is Hitchcock's masterpiece 5 stars
11/15/00 salvo toscano Can a film with no plot be a great film. This hitch's summa definitely is! 5 stars
7/21/00 AA Suspenseful, exciting, funny - Classic Hitchcock. Great fun! 5 stars
6/03/00 Bob Wombat This really is one of the coolest films ever made. Perfect. 5 stars
2/29/00 Bozo Not my fave Hitch by a mile, but his worse is better than (almost) anyone's best 4 stars
1/07/00 hum james mason is cool in this to. 4 stars
11/29/99 Mic My favourite Hitchcock. Exhilarating and funny. 5 stars
11/05/99 Anthony Ellis One of the best movies ever. Loads of fun! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Jul-1959 (NR)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Alfred Hitchcock

Written by
  Ernest Lehman

Cast
  Cary Grant
  Eva Marie Saint
  James Mason
  Jessie Royce Landis



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