(fig 1 – poster)
“North by Northwest” (1959) is a movie that incorporates comedy, thrills, action and romance in a graceful manner. Roger Thornhill (played by Cary Grant) is taken out of his familiar business surroundings and placed right in the middle of a criminal typhoon where his only way out is to try and play the game of survival. Peter Bradshaw talks about the film: “North By Northwest” was a product of the cold war, a contest which, as one top American spy here darkly remarks, Washington is worried about losing. But America certainly looks like a winner in this gorgeous film.” (Bradshaw, 2009)
A lot can be said about the incredible set pieces and their use throughout the movie. Even for its time the finale at Mount Rushmore looks strangely realistic. Filmsite.org talks about that: “Exciting set-pieces include the seduction scenes with steamy double entendres during a cross-country train ride, the seven-minute bi-plane crop-duster attack scene near a Midwest cornfield, the auction scene, and the dangling finale at Mount Rushmore, heralded in another film poster: From the killer plane in the cornfield to the cliff-hanger on George Washington's nose, it's suspense in every direction!” (Filmsite.org, 2015)
This film also brings us a cult scene with the crop-duster (fig. 2). Another magnificent use of the camera and while watching it, it seems as if there isn't a single shot out of place, everything is perfectly constructed to paint the whole picture clearly and in an exciting way. Tula Onanuga talks about the scene and its impact: “Hitchcock's 1959 classic was ahead of its time in many ways, but the tense few moments in which suave ad executive Roger Thornhill is terrorised by a murderous crop-dusting pilot is the film's biggest triumph. It is also one of the most emulated action sequences in Hollywood history. It's been parodied by everything from The Simpsons to Metallica.” (Onanuga, 2013)
(fig 2 – movie still)
An intriguing point about the movie is the modern way with which women are presented. Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) is a sophisticated woman that knows what she wants and plays a major role in the film. A. H. Weiler talks about the actress: “In casting Eva Marie Saint has plumbed some talents not shown by the actress heretofore. Although she is seemingly a hard, designing type, she also emerges both the sweet heroine and a glamorous charmer.” (Weiler, 2015) (fig. 3)
(Fig 3 – movie still)
In conclusion the film is visually exciting and presented in a delightful, easy-to-watch, way. Story wise it seems very different from the chilling horror we are accustomed to connect Hitchcock’s name to, but his use of the camera cannot be mistaken for anyone else’s.
Fig 1 - Static.guim.co.uk, (2015). [online] Available at: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Arts/Arts_/Pictures/2009/10/12/1255344062954/north-by-northwest-001.jpg [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015].
Fig 2 - Img.ksl.com, (2015). [online] Available at: http://img.ksl.com/slc/2511/251149/25114969.jpg [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015].
Fig 3 - Carycomeshome.uk, (2015). [online] Available at: http://www.carycomeshome.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/north-by-northwest-screenshot-5.jpg [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015].
Bradshaw, P. (2009). Film review: North By Northwest. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/jun/19/north-by-northwest-hitchcock-cary-grant-film-review [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015].
Filmsite.org, (2015). North by Northwest (1959). [online] Available at: http://www.filmsite.org/nort.html [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015].
Onanuga, T. (2013). Why I love … North By Northwest's crop-duster scene. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/30/north-by-northwest-grant-hitchcock [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015].
Weiler, A. (2015). Movie Review - North By Northwest - Hitchcock Takes Suspenseful Cook's Tour; ' North by Northwest' Opens at Music Hall - NYTimes.com. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9404E7D91631EE3BBC4F53DFBE668382649EDE [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015].