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Review - North by Northwest: 50th Anniversary Edition (2009)
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North by Northwest: 50th Anniversary Ed. (2009)

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North by Northwest - 50th Anniversary Edition (DVD-2009)

Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

Alfred Hitchcock’s highly celebrated masterwork, North by Northwest has been released on DVD (and also in Blu Ray) in a special 50th Anniversary Edition on Warner Home Video.

Starring Cary Grant in his fourth (and final) appearance in a Hitchcock film, and featuring a supporting cast with no less the likes of Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau and Leo G. Carroll, North by Northwest is a tour de force that is just as effective today as on the day of its release.

Grant plays a successful New York advertising man who is kidnapped after being mistaken for another man by international spies. In addition, he is framed for murder and forced to flee across the country in an effort to survive and in hope of clearing his name. The spies think he’s a spy and the police think he’s an assassin, and a U.S. intelligence agency uses his situation to further its own ends.

Cary Grant gives a stunning performance as Roger O. Thornhill. Every line he utters is a masterpiece of timing and delivery. His serious demeanor and gift for comedy are exploited to the utmost here to the sheer delight of the viewer. His co-stars are no less dazzling—Eva Marie Saint brings glamour and sultriness, coolness, daring and brilliance to her role of Eve Kendall. This is a film that smolders with sex. Line after line contains subtle and bold innuendo which is startling even today. It must have been astonishing for audiences in 1959 when the film premiered.

The ever reliable James Mason gives another smooth, sophisticated and classy performance as the film’s villain and a very young Martin Landau proves he has just the right performance sensibility for a Hitchcock film. Also, veteran actor Leo G. Carroll was undoubtedly cast as Mr. Waverly, the head of United Network Command for Law and Enforcement in TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series as the result of his portrayal of a similar U.S. intelligence agency head here.

North by Northwest has everything. Thrills, suspense, humor, adventure, spies, intrigue, action, glamour and, above all, cinematic artistry. Hitchcock was in one of his several creative peak periods here—The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho and The Birds are all part of the period in which North by Northwest manifested. The film’s cinematic set pieces are renowned—the famed crop dusting sequence and the chase atop Mount Rushmore are the best known examples, but the film’s notable auction sequence is handled with equal deftness and is a real crowd pleaser.

With a lucid yet complex and layered script by the extremely talented Ernest Lehman (whose adaptation from stage to screen, helped to make The Sound of Music into such a blockbuster) and an exciting and rousing musical score by the legendary Bernard Herrmann with its famous use of a fandango in the film’s main theme, North by Northwest has within it so much to admire and enjoy as to be irresistible. It loses nothing from repeated viewings; it only gets better.

The new DVD was remastered and restored from original VistaVision film elements and it features three outstanding documentaries not included on the previous DVD release nearly a decade ago while still including an excellent documentary from the older set.

North by Northwest is essential viewing and this DVD provides a superb edition of one of the all time great screen entertainments from master director Alfred Hitchcock.

 

2009 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams

 

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