North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest (1959), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

First review:

One of Hitchock's most popular films, a light comedy/adventure/romance given lavish treatment. Cary Grant's last Hitchcock picture; it was a good run.

Eva Marie Saint can smolder as needed, but otherwise seems pretty passive. James Mason projects whatever degree of refined villainy is required; he always makes it look easy.

The plot doesn't make a lot of sense (murder by drunk driving? by crop duster? microfilm in a statue?) but we don't much care. This time it seemed to me the story is all about "trust". Those who trust often come to bad ends in Hitchcock. But against the background of who is cheating who, a man and woman, by fits and starts, can break through and start believing in each other. Love is the answer!

I noticed plot similarities with Notorious (1946) where Grant is again in love with a double agent who is sleeping with the enemy. Ingrid Bergman's drunken driving is repeated here with comic effect. And remember Saboteur (1942), where a villainous foreign agent falls off another national monument.

Bernard Herrmann score.

The first Hitchcock available on Blu-ray.

Second review:

This is probably Hitchcock's most popular film with general audiences; I recall it was the first of his available on Blu-ray. We have all the favorite bits: Cary Grant in a romantic comedy thriller, the old double chase of an innocent man evading the police while pursuing the real spies, planes-trains-and-automobiles cross country, ending with a scramble across a national monument.

At this level it is loads of fun and features vivid cinematography by Robert Burks and an exciting score from Bernard Herrmann, both long time Hitchcock collaborators.

What it lacks the sort of edge we find in many of his other films: our tendency to root for the villain or find some shadow of guilt in our hero. Grant is somewhat conflicted over deep cover agent Eva Marie Saint, but this is nothing compared to his self-loathing when he requires Ingrid Bergman to actually marry a top nazi in Notorious (1946).

Last time I saw this I found the passion scenes to be only tepid, but they seem much hotter in the first half now, still not so much when we hit the final act at Mount Rushmore.

Available on Blu-ray.