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North by Northwest

North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 1959)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Ernest Lehman
Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason
Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery

About: A New York advertising man (Cary Crant) while having drinks with friends is mistaken for another man and is abducted at gun point by two mysterious strangers, who believe he's someone else.

: I love the composition of that scene in the dust covered corn field. The big empty space with Cary Grant off to one side speaks volumes.

I always enjoy Hitch's movies I can't think of a Hitch film I've seen that I disliked. I say that because I tend to focus my critique on things that I didn't care for even when my overall review is positive.

Right off the bat I loved the opening title credits and music score...The title credits are important, they set the theme of the movie...and it's feeling. The credits were frantic, fast paced, with diagonal lines...lines everywhere! Like points on the map.

Then the credits dissolve into a diagonal shot of the U.N. building. Very cool! Then the theme of fast, confused movement continues as Cary Grant bustles down a very crowded New York City street. There's people everywhere! All going somewhere, movement, movement, movement!....That's the theme of the movie...and Hitch brilliantly establishes that in the opening scene.

Instantly the film grabs me and pulls me into it's world. The first 45 minutes where Cary is mistakenly abducted was gripping. The script is very intelligently written throughout the entire film. Cary reacted to his kidnappers in the way I would have expected him to. And the plot twists and grows as it's story elements continually broadening the underlying spy theme. Well done.

Cary Grant is perfect for this role. As much as I like Jimmy Stewart, he would have been all wrong here. But the suave and yet irritated Cary worked perfectly here. So did James Mason. Damn is this guy good or what! The more I see of James Mason, the more I like him.

So, I was in bliss here with the movie, until Eva Maria Saint appears. I do like her, but the movie stalls a bit with her controlled acting. She seemed like an actress in a soap opera, dramatic but not real. She was austere, cold and distant. Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know that was her character, but later in the movie when we learn more about her, she still stays in this same mode. I feel the same way about her in this movie, as I did about Grace Kelly in Rear Window and especially Dial M for Murder.

But wait a minute! I recently watched On the Waterfront and in that Eva Marie Saint was very good. She was believable and very much in the moment. So it's not her, as I know she can act up a storm, which means maybe it's not Grace either....It's the way Hitch handles some of his leading ladies. He seems to actively seek out, blonde arm hanger actresses in many of his 50s-60s movies. They're often the cold, cool, beautiful bitchy type. I've heard Hitch had a thing for that type. It's too bad because I found Eva's character underdeveloped, compared to what she could have been, and she could have been so much more.

The last hour is fun/exciting/good, but more on par with Spielberg's Indian Jone type film, with lots of action, and thrills and trick camera shots.