North By Northwest (7/18/12)

North By NorthwestMovie One Hundred Seventy

North By Northwest tells the tale of a case of mistaken identity leading to a kidnapping by international spies.

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for George Kaplan after paging a bellhop who is paging Kaplan. Two thugs take note and force Thornhill to the estate of Lester Townsend by a man impersonating Townsend named Philip Vandamm (James Mason). After questioning and Thornhill’s refusal that he is Kaplan, they fill Thornhill with liquor and send him on his way over a cliff. Instead, Thornhill, who is extremely drunk, drives away and gets picked up by the cops. When no one believes his story, Thornhill decides to track down the real George Kaplan to get to the bottom of things. He soon finds himself on the run after another case of mistaken identity and becomes involved with a young woman named Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps him escape capture only to land him in more trouble.

North By Northwest is very much an Alfred Hitchcock film. It has everything we’ve come to expect from the master of suspense and it could easily be argued that North By Northwest is one of his finest films. Cary Grant absolutely shines on screen and can be charming and funny no matter what. The rest of the cast is good, especially Saint, but Grant is undoubtedly the star here.

I actually got the opportunity to see this in theaters, in the same summer series as A Clockwork Orange, and unlike that film, North By Northwest looked and sounded like it had been carefully restored for the big screen. Unfortunately for me (and the rest of the theater) the experience was marred by a group of cackling idiots near the front of the theater that shrieked and bounced up and down during most of the film. Scenes that were not meant to be funny were laughed at and tense scenes were marred by their outbursts. They were clearly enjoying themselves but it was incredibly irritating. If you’re wondering, we didn’t get a manager because they weren’t doing anything wrong, per se, they were just irritating people. As a public service announcement, please remember that a crowded movie theater is not your living room.

Alfred Hitchcock’s films catalog is vast and it would take ages for one to watch all of his films. It would be hard to even just recommend one film of his to watch, let alone several. North By Northwest is a film that should be viewed both because it’s a Hitchcock film and because it’s a beautifully crafted thriller.

I give it 4 missed the bus moments out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


37 responses to “North By Northwest (7/18/12)

    • I’m itching to see it again in the comfort of my own home. I’m REALLY looking forward to the Hitchcock collection being released on blu-ray later this year. I’m pondering doing a Hitchcock week or something.

  1. Excellent choice, sir! My favorite Hitchcock is Frenzy and no one ever seems to mention that one. Maybe I’ll have to queue that one up.

  2. Classic film. Some parts of the film feel a little stretched, but it’s a near perfect thriller and certainly one of Hitchcock’s best, though my favorite is Vertigo. Good review.

    • Yeah, the pacing stumbles over itself a bit in the middle but I almost think it plays into the finale to grab you even tighter. It’s been years and years since I’ve seen Vertigo so I’ll have to rectify that. Thanks!

    • It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite (I’d say Rear Window) but I love that everyone has their own favorite and I certainly wouldn’t argue in another film’s favor since they are all wonderful.

  3. This isn’t my absolute favorite Hitchcock film (my top three are most likely Dial “M” for Murder, Psycho, and Vertigo), but I love it. I’d probably give it the same grade you did. Nice.

  4. I saw 3/4 of this film on the biggest screen in Miami-Dade County. And what I mean to say that the screen requires four projectors to make one image and one of the projectors was out. We were missing the top left quadrant. Amazingly, no one minded. It was an outdoor screening at a new venue and they were still working out the bugs.

    I love the opening shot of “North by Northwest”, and James Mason’s character.

  5. One of my favourite films of all time! If I remember right, his name is actually Roger O Thornhill, but the O doesn’t stand for anything – just spells ROT on his business card. Classic of Hitchcock’s quirky sense of Humour. I’m sorry that your experience was ‘marred’ in that way, but I don’t think it really added anything to the post to say so much about it. Those people obviously need to take a good look at the moviegoes code of conduct though.
    I’m new to your blog, look forward to reading more about FILMS!

    • He is indeed Roger O. Thornhill, and that’s a perfect example of Hitchcock’s sense of humor. You’re probably right that I didn’t need to devote much space talking about my bad experience, but I think I would have written the same amount had it been a good experience too. My basic “formula” for my brief reviews are a paragraph to summarize the plot and then 2-4 paragraphs detailing my other thoughts on the film. I like to keep things brief, but I also like to keep them personal to me.

      I am totally open to all suggestions, though, I seriously welcome them and I love that code of conduct video, that’s classic. Hope to see more of you around!

  6. Andy it TOTALLY sucks that your experience was marred in this way – it really irritates me when people behave in such an inconsiderate manner! I had a similar experience when I went to see ‘Elf’; however, the whole farcical element of the situation seemed to complement the feel of the movie…. I honestly think that I was too angry to get a manager… grr!

    Anyway, ‘North by Northwest’ is, I reckon, my number one favourite film… Well that’s unfair to say – there are too many films. Last year my bro asked ‘what film could you watch every night for a week and not tire of?’. This was my answer. I just love it. The dialogue, the sound track, the cast, the tension, the setting – I love everything! Even Hitchcock’s cameo right at the start… 🙂 Great post, buddy. 🙂

    • It’s really hard for me to brush off bad movie-watching experiences and my take of the films are what suffers which isn’t fair. I’m really looking forward to seeing this one again, I had never seen the entire thing all the way through. I can certainly see how this could be an all-time favorite, it really is great. Thanks!

  7. I have to agree that Rear Window is my fav Hitchcock film as well though Cary Grant in anything is great! I like this film a lot too though because I think Grant plays these kinds of characters as well as his really funny ones. Hitchcock had real vision when it came to actors he liked working with. Cheers.

  8. i thought for sure i wrote a review for this. i enjoyed the movie a lot, until one stupid thing – the airplane scene. how stupid. if they really wanted to kill him, they could have easily pulled up in a car, nobody around, and shot him. the whole scene was laughable, and it ruined the story for me, as did the chase on mt. rushmore. just not believable scenes.

    • I don’t see it as scoring lower, my rating system doesn’t necessarily mean that a 5/5 film is better than a 4/5 one, it just means that I enjoyed the overall experience more and I’d be more apt to watch a 5/5 again before I’d rewatch one that scores a 4/5. There are obviously exceptions to that, though I would still say I’d be more prone to rewatch another Batman movie before rewatching North by Northwest. Hope that makes sense!

      • Try it again…a notice in NORTH the film flub in the Mt Rushmore cafeteria where the kid plugs his ears before the gun goes off. Did you spot Hitch in the film? Try it again…it’s one for the ages whereas TDKR is a movie for “right now”

  9. Pingback: My July Movies Round-Up | Andy Watches Movies

  10. I wrote a paper on Hitch when I was in film school and NBN was awesome to watch on the big screen at NYU. I had a blast reviewing it as well. Good job bro. Hitchcock is just brilliant.

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