My first Hitchcock movie makes its way to Blu-ray today. Of all the oldies to work in high def, this could be one of them.
There’s something so timeless about “North by Northwest” and it’s not necessarily that it will echo with any generation. Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill, for example, feels a little foreign among today’s thriller protagonists (accent aside) as a 50-year-old everyday man thrown into a mess of a government situation. The action is certainly not big-budget like modern films either with the exception of one explosion. The “it” that “Northwest” has is something more unique and a lot of it stems from great thriller writing and of course the direction of Sir Alfred Hitchcock.“Northwest” follows the story of how Thornhill is taken against his will and accused of being a man named George Kaplan. These men try and kill Thornhill results in him rushing to prove his innocence, which actually leads him deeper into the mystery of George Kaplan. The writing of Ernest Lehman is absolutely terrific and it seems a shame that Hitchcock never collaborated with him again. The dialogue is not only very pointed and helpful to the plot, but also the plot movement with its twists and turns and clever way of revealing information to the viewer is simply classic–no film in this film’s nearly 50 year old shadow has been able to eclipse it.
Then there is Hitchcock’s signature directing. No one seems to choose better moments to employ certain shot techniques than Alfred HItchcock. He knows how to turn the best parts of the film into highly memorable and often times unforgettable scenes. The crop-duster attack is easily one of the greatest scenes in thriller movie history. Conceptually, but especially direction-wise as it could be potentially boring or over-directed to be more intense. Instead, it finds its intensity from Hitchcock’s decision to let it build and fall back as the plane flies by and circles around again.
Perhaps the immediate impact of this film made it an instant classic and nobody wanted to borrow any obvious ideas or techniques–although the two-faced femme fatale played by Eva Marie Saint is certainly an archetype of a lot of these kind of movies. “North by Northwest” simply still stands out through its inventiveness and will always continue to do so.
“North by Northwest” (1959)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Ernest Lehman
Starring: Carey Grant, Eva Marie Saint