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*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE BLU RAY REISSUES ***

As you watch the credits of Hitch's 1959 masterpiece "North By Northwest" roll up on the screen in all their resplendent VistaVision Technicolor glory - the shiny, cold and aloof glass panelling of a New York skyscraper acts as their backdrop.

It's a brilliant touch - because combined with Bernard Herrmann's staccato score - it ratchets up the tension - and also subliminally suggests to the viewer that some poor John Doe is about to get rightly and royally screwed by big business and big Government - or both. And of course - mistaken for a UN diplomat called George Caplin - our hapless hero George Thornhill (played by Cary Grant) - does just that. Then when the opening credits end and Cary exits the lift with his secretary (Doreen Lang) all suited-n-booted and looking dapper enough to lick - another element kicks in - the extraordinary picture quality...

State-of-the art frame-by-frame Lowry Digital restoration has taken place here and the result is that the print is just BEAUTIFUL. I raved in a UK Listmania list some 3 years ago about how good the DVD looked - well this BLU RAY is way better - and at times just jaw-dropping to look at. Icing on the cake is that this 50th Anniversary BLU RAY reissue (Nov 2009) also adds on some superlative new features which are just as good as the film itself.

Here's the full list:
1. Commentary by Ernest Lehman (Original Script-Writer)
2. New 2009 Documentary "The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style"
(over 50 minutes - featuring comments from directors Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, Frances Lawrence, Guillermo del Toro and many more)
3. Previously seen but superlative feature-length profile "Cary Grant: A Class Apart" (over 1 and a half hours)
4. New 2009 feature called "North By Northwest: One For The Ages" examining the movies innovations and influences
5. Feature called "The Making Of North By Northwest" from 2000 hosted by Eva Marie Saint
6. Music Only Audio Track
7. Stills Gallery
8. Theatrical Trailers & TV Spots
9. Internet link to Warner Brothers

A whole bunch of things combine to make NBN work - a great story by Ernest Lehman, superb night and day locations, immaculate period clothes, the bulbous gas-guzzling cars, the art-deco buildings, the interiors of wealthy homes and the deeply luxurious dining cars of long-distance 1950's trains. And to top all of that, you get genuine old-school Hollywood star power in the form of James Mason, Martin Landau, Leo Carroll and the luminous love interest Eva Marie Saint. And of course the effortlessly suave and charming Cary Grant - arguably the best leading man Tinseltown ever produced. Throw in the tension, wit and camera angles of Hitchcock at the helm - and you're on a winner.

But your eyes keep coming back to how this BLU RAY shines. There are so many little scenes that now look sumptuous - Alfred missing the bus just at the end of the opening credits in his famous cameo scene - the garish colours of Fifties New York taxis, the marble of the hotel lobby Cary is meeting clients in. Then there's the Townsend home and gardens as the villains motor up the gravel driveway to the front door, the three dapper suits of the boys as they parry in the library room inside (Mason, Landau and Grant) and the clarity of the night scene where they put a drunk Cary in a stolen car and try to drive him off a cliff. Further on there's the colour of the fields in the legendary crop-duster scene, hanging off the Mount Rushmore monument by your fingernails - even Eva Saint Marie's beautiful red dress in the hotel room as she stands by the door while Cary showers in the bathroom... I could go on. If I was to nitpick - some scenes quite deliberately have Grant and Saint with an almost halo-like shine around them (soft focus to make them look better) and can at times make the print look just a teeny bit soft. But other than that - this is exemplary stuff and a jewel in Warners Brothers considerable filmic Crown.

Up there with "The Italian Job", "Zulu", "Goldfinger", "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", "The African Queen", "To Catch A Thief" and "Back To The Future" in terms of top quality restoration (see my reviews for each) - "North By Northwest" is a triumph on BLU RAY. And the superb additional extras only make you feel that Warners are to be praised for a job well done.

As to which release to buy on BLU RAY - (as of April 2014) there are a number of releases for UK fans:

1. The Standard UK release of 2009 (50th Anniversary Edition cover) is in a simple clipcase with no booklet (Amazon Reference B002CYIR5W)
2. The UK 2013 Steelbook Reissue Version uses the old Poster artwork on the front and has no booklet either (Amazon UK reference B00A6UH9PS)
3. The American DIGIBOOK release of 2009 (50th Anniversary Edition cover) on Warner Brothers however has a Hardback Sleeve and a beautiful 46-page booklet attached inside. It's also Region Free so will play on all machines. If you've the few quid - opt for this - it often retails for around a ten spot and is gorgeous to look at and own (Amazon UK reference B0017HMF6W).

PS: For anyone interested (as I said above) - the American NBN is part of the following list of American DIGIBOOK BLU RAY titles on Warner Brothers. Most are REGION FREE and each has a beautiful booklet - which few if any of the UK versions have:

All The President's Men (1976)
Amadeus (1984)
Batman (1989)
The Big Parade (1925)
Blade Runner (1982)
Bonnie And Clyde (1967)1975)
Cabaret (1972)
Camelot (1967)
Casablanca (1942)
Chariots Of Fire (1981)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Clash Of The Titans (1981)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Color Purple (1985)
Deliverance (1972)
Dirty Harry (1971)
Doctor Zhizago (1965)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
East Of Eden (1953)
Elvis On Tour (1972)
Empire Of The Sun (1987)
The Exorcist (1973)
Falling Down (1993)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Gettysburg (1993)
Giant (1956)
Goodfellows (1990)
Gods And Generals (2003)
The Green Mile (1999)
Guys And Dolls (1955)
Hamlet [Kenneth Branagh Version] (1996)
Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
How The West Was Won (1962
Jaws (1975)
The Jazz Singer (1927)
JFK (1991)
The Killing Fields (1984)
King Kong (1933 Original)
Malcolm X (1992)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
The Matrix (1999)
Meet me In St. Louis (1944)
Midnight Express (1978)
Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
North By Nothwest (1959)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Papillon (1973) - SEE REVIEW
Poltergeist (1982)
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Rocky (1976)
Se7en (1995)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Silverado (1985)
The Sorcerer (1977)
A Star Is Born (1954 Original)
A Star Is Born (1976 Remake)
A Streetcare Named Desire (1951)
300 (2007)
The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
1919 Comments| 127 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 March 2002
Anyone who thinks that the DVD format is only any good for new releases with eye-popping effects should buy this - an excellent DVD treatment of one of the most entertaining movies of all time.
It may be over forty years old, but it certainly doesn't look it - from the gorgeous opening titles through to the climax of the movie, this is a sumptuous transfer.
The extras - including a whimsical Ernest Lehman commentary - are above average among classic Hollywood movies.
All in all, I would challenge anyone to find a better value DVD anywhere. A must-have for anyone with the remotest interest in movies.
0Comment| 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 March 2010
Blu-ray all zone

Ratio of the feature film:
1.78:1

Languages of the feature film:
Dolby True HD 5.1: English
Dolby 1.0: French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese
Dolby 2.0: Isolated Score Track by Bernard Hermann

Subtitles for all the videos:
English, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese

Verdict:
An outstanding picture and sound for this master-piece which was perfectly well restored.
A true pleasure to watch this film again in such fantastic conditions.
0Comment| 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 November 2002
There's not much that needs to be said about this film other than it is just an absolutely flawless piece of film-making.
The tension coils all the way through and the pace of the film never lets up but the true greatness of the film lies in the stellar performances given by Hitchcocks' actors with a Howard Hawks-like script. James Mason gives a great performance as the professional villain and steers well clear of the Hooded Claw-like criminal who twiddles his moustache and instead gives a subtle lesson in how to be ruthless.
At the foundation of the movie is the truly magnetic performances given by Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. The chemistry between the two is unlike any performances from any other movie. They give off so much heat that its a wonder they managed to film them and not have the celluloid melt in the camera. Cary Grant in particular plays the role of the man mistaken for a spy with great conviction and just draws you in like a moth to a candle and you just can't imagine anyone else being able to pull this role off with such credibility.
There are so many now legendary scenes throughout including the infamous crop duster scene and the final showdown on Mount Rushmore but for me the one in the auction house is an absolute treat and when you see it you'll know why, as Cary Grant does the kind of things only he could do.
It disturbs me how some people won't watch a movie unless its less than five years old because they are depriving themselves of the kind of entertainment that only films like this can give. No matter how many Bruce Willis or Arnold schwarzenegger action movies get produced they will never touch this movie, its got thrills, spills, chemistry, great one liners and some of the finest action sequences ever concocted. Buy it, watch it and tell your friends about it. Its even in colour.
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on 28 December 2016
You can't imagine anyone other than Cary Grant as the chief protaganist in this film - the character fits him as well as the classic grey suit which he wears throughout the film, even when being crop dusted. Surprising to read therefore that the role was originally intended for James Stewart. In typical Hitchcock style, the viewer knows more about the ins and outs of the plot than Grant does. Eve Marie Saint is pretty good as the Hitchcock blonde but James Mason is better as the villain. The plot of the story is sound with enough twists and turns to keep everyone happy and there are a whole host of famous scenes to watch out for - the aforementioned crop spraying, the finale on Mount Rushmore, the auction scene and the phallic train entering a tunnel.
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on 4 February 2013
I really do like a steelbook and these commemorative releases from Warners are a delight. On review here we have, arguably, one of the greatest movies of all time from one of the greatest directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock.

North by Northwest stars Carey Grant as Roger Thornhill who gets caught up in a duplicitous game of cat and mouse when he is mistakenly identified as one George Kaplan, a secret agent. Pursued across country on a train, fired upon by a deadly crop duster in a classic scene and finally an epic endgame atop Mount Rushmore Grant is ably backed up by a stellar cast including Eve Marie Saint and a deliciously wicked James Mason. With a score by Bernard Herrmann this sits easily in the top tier of the Masters films and is one to watch again and again.

The picture quality here is just stunning! With a beautifully remastered picture North by Northwest has never looked as vibrant to this reviewers eyes. Everything just looks so detailed, sharp and solid with the proper level of film grain still present its just a joy to behold. Its honestly like seeing the film for the first time!

The extras are almost as good as the film itself with a lovely commentary from the screenwriter Ernest Lehman, which Ive now listened to twice haha, a wonderful and insightful documentary on Carey Grant which is almost worth the price of admission alone, a featurette called The Masters Touch about the filmmaking style of Hitchcock, a making of North by Northwest feature and a few other bits and bobs.

Really a MUST OWN movie so if you dont have it get it. And if you can get this steelbook edition all the better because its a really lovely addition to anyones collection.
11 Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I won't try to compete with the big excellent, detailed review here, but if you're wondering if you should splash out on buying the Blu-ray whilst owning the DVD, I would say - definitely. If you don't already own the DVD, then don't hesitate with the Blu-ray.

I love seeing older films in colour and in the best possible format, and this one must be very close to the top of the tree in terms of picture quality. Everything looks vibrant and you almost feel part of 1950s America.

Just buy it, lie back and enjoy. You won't regret it.
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on 14 October 2013
[This review is for the Blu-ray + Ultraviolet version released by Warner 2013]

I won't bother with commenting on the merits of the film itself - as already attested by other reviewers, it is an excellent Hitchcock film for the period, originally shot on 70mm emulsion, and with a memorable musical score.

Also, we are dealing with a film produced in 1958, but this is actually where my issue is: If we look at comparable VistaVision material of the era eg To Catch a Thief (1954) or The Searchers (1956), I think that this Warner 2013 release is merely a 'tweek' of the 2006 DVD master - and an indifferent one at that - an upscaling which actually has lost discernible colour saturation and depth from the std 2006 DVD - which is/was surprisingly good. Thus Warner's claim of 'State-of-the-Art Restoration' must be viewed with some disbelief, and probably applies to the std DVD (which as stated already is impressive for 576p)

By contrast, Paramount's 2012 Blu-ray treatment of 'To Catch a Thief' or Warner's own 'The Searchers' are veritable benchmarks in quality, especially the latter which Warner describes as 'New Digital High-Definition Transfer'. I believe this.

Given that Blu-ray is in a death struggle with HD on demand, it perhaps behoves their principals to keep a tighter rein on the quality. If they allow studios to simply upscale the std DVD stock without any attempt at meaningful re-mastering, they could find they are doing themselves a disservice in the long run.

In summary: Great movie, mediocre Blu-ray
22 Comments| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Hitchcock"s films were made for their time and hugely successful they were too.Only the very great directors can claim that their works can still generate tension , thrills and quality decades later(were they still alive). Hitch is in that select band.
Music,screenplay,production,acting and all crafts brought together by the man still combine today to give such excellent enterainment.
Certain words or phrases used date the film i.e. "making love" and "gay" (which are used in a different context today), but thats nit-picking: this film stands up to the test of time remarkably well.
The DVD includes plenty of extras for enthusiasts such as audio commentary,music tracks and behind-the-scenes documentary with comments by the actors etc. Highly recommended.
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on 17 October 2007
During a span of 51 years, Alfred Hitchcock made 57 feature films, from "The Pleasure Garden (1925)" to "Family Plot (1976)". I've watched nearly one-third of them and should say that "North by Northwest" is the fastest, funniest and most beautiful of his caper/thrillers.

Actually, the premise for "North by Northwest" is nothing new: a case of mistaken identity. An "ordinary man" accused of a murder he did not commit, and he must clear his name by assuming different identities. "The 39 Steps", "Young and Innocent", "The Wrong Man" and "Saboteur" were based on a similar theme. But what makes "North by Northwest" so special is its rarity in combining a twisted plot with a dazzling cast, great action, ingenious direction to create a yummy blend of suspense, adventure, deceit and Hitchcockian style of wry humor. If any movie shall be called "true cult classic", it is "North by Northwest".

Along with lots of deadly one-liners, the film hosts a bunch of the most memorable scenes in motion picture history: the murder in the lobby of the UN building, Thornhill's witty escape in the auction house, the attack of mysterious crop-duster in the middle of nowhere, all scenes on the train, and the climatic chase atop Mt. Rushmore. Hitchcock proves here again he was master of substitution of the language of the camera for words. Take the crop-duster scene. Without any music or special effects, no other director can afford to create such a claustrophobia on an open space in broad daylight just using natural sounds and complex suspense elements in the rhythm of events and cutting.

The film has a strong subtextual ideologic base too. Far ahead of its time in that it captures the political zeitgeist of late 1950s perfectly: moral relativism dominating the Cold War era. Very good epitome of how the State sacrifices the "ordinary man" for secretive causes involving the national interests.

Last word: pure, plain and vibrant. Despite 50 years have passed since its making, it is still fresh and highly watchable.
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