A masterful mix of comedy and suspense from Alfred Hitchcock. Advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is lunching in a restaurant with his mother when he mistakenly answers a page for one George Kaplan. He soon finds himself on the run across the country, being pursued by enemies of the government who are convinced that he is a secret agent. He finds a friend in Eve Kendall (Eve Marie Saint), who helps conceal him during a perilous train journey, but soon discovers that she is not all she seems.
A strong candidate for possibly the most entertaining and enjoyable film ever made by a Hollywood studio, North by Northwest
is positioned between the much heavier and more profoundly disturbing Vertigo
(1958) and the stark horror of Psycho
(1960). In the corpus of Alfred Hitchcock films it shows the director at his most effervescent in a romantic comedy-thriller that also features one of the definitive Cary Grant performances. Which is not to say that this is just "Hitchcock Lite". It's a classic Hitchcock Wrong Man scenario: Grant is Roger O Thornhill (initials ROT), an advertising executive who is mistaken by enemy spies for a US undercover agent named George Kaplan. Convinced these sinister fellows (James Mason as the boss and Martin Landau as his henchman) are trying to kill him, Roger flees and meets a sexy Stranger on a Train (Eva Marie Saint), with whom he engages in one of the longest, most convolutedly choreographed kisses in screen history. And of course there are the famous set pieces: the stabbing at the United Nations, the crop-duster plane attack in the cornfield (where a pedestrian has no place to hide) and the cliffhanger finale atop the stone faces of Mount Rushmore. With its sparkling Ernest Lehman script and that pulse-quickening Bernard Herrmann score, what more could a filmgoer possibly desire? --Jim Emerson, Amazon.com
On the DVD: This wide-screen print of the movie looks remarkably fresh, preserving the vivid depth of the original's VistaVision cinematography. The main extra feature is a new and entertaining 40-minute documentary hosted by Eva Marie Saint in which most of the surviving cast and crew give their insights into the making of the picture (we learn for example that canny Cary Grant charged 15 cents per autograph). Screenwriter Ernest Lehman provides an audio commentary and on a separate audio-only track Bernard Herrmann's masterful score can be heard in its entirety. There's also a stills gallery and trailers. --Mark Walker
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