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North by Northwest
50th Anniversary Edition
Blu-ray | Blu-ray Book Packaging
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North By Northwest (Blu-Ray Book)
Cary Grant teams with director Alfred Hitchcock for the fourth and final time in this superlative espionage caper judged one of the American Film Institute's Top-100 American Films and spruced up with a new digital transfer and remixed Dolby Digital Stereo. Grant plays a Manhattan advertising executive plunged into a realm of spy (James Mason) and counterspy (Eva Marie Saint) and variously abducted, framed for murder, chased and in another signature set piece, crop-dusted. He also holds on for dear life from the facial features of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore (backlot sets were used). But don't expect the Master of Suspense to leave star or audience hanging.]]>
A strong candidate for the most sheerly entertaining and enjoyable movie ever made by a Hollywood studio (with Citizen Kane, Only Angels Have Wings and Trouble in Paradise running neck and neck). Positioned between the much heavier and more profoundly disturbing Vertigo (1958) and the stark horror of Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) is Alfred Hitchcock at his most effervescent in a romantic comedy-thriller that also features one of the definitive Cary Grant performances. Which is not to say that this is just "Hitchcock Lite"; seminal Hitchcock critic Robin Wood (in his book Hitchcock's Films Revisited) makes an airtight case for this glossy MGM production as one of The Master's "unbroken series of masterpieces from Vertigo to Marnie." It's a classic Hitchcock Wrong Man scenario: Grant is Roger O. Thornhill (initials ROT), an advertising executive who is mistaken by enemy spies for a U.S. undercover agent named George Kaplan. Convinced these sinister fellows (James Mason as the boss, and Martin Landau as his henchman) are trying to kill him, Roger flees and meets a sexy Stranger on a Train (Eva Marie Saint), with whom he engages in one of the longest, most convolutedly choreographed kisses in screen history. And, of course, there are the famous set pieces: the stabbing at the United Nations, the crop-duster plane attack in the cornfield (where a pedestrian has no place to hide), and the cliffhanger finale atop the stone faces of Mount Rushmore. Plus a sparkling Ernest Lehman script and that pulse-quickening Bernard Herrmann score. What more could a moviegoer possibly desire?--Jim Emerson
Also on the Blu-ray disc
North by Northwest is a great-looking Blu-ray disc, with a sharpness and colors that seem like you're watching the film for the first time. New on the 50th anniversary edition are a one-hour documentary on Hitchcock's work "The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style," and a shorter one (25 min.) specifically about the film, "North by Northwest: One for the Ages." It's packaged in one of Warner's Blu-ray books, with trivia, character profiles, and stills and vintage art. Older extras include screenwriter Ernest Lehman's commentary track, a 90-minute profile of star Cary Grant, the documentary from 2000 "Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest" hosted by Eva Marie-Saint, a music-only audio track, and theatrical trailers. --David Horiuchi
Stills from North by Northwest (Click for larger image; not Blu-ray screen-captures)
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New 2009 documentary: The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style
Feature-length career profile: Cary Grant: A Class Apart
North by Northwest: One for the Ages: explore the movie's innovations and influences
Vintage 2000 documentary: Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest
Music-only audio track
Theatrical trailers and TV spot
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THE STORY: An unassuming advertising executive is mistaken for an undercover government operative by some very unsavory characters. In less than 24 hours his entire, comfortably predictable routine world is completely destroyed and he himself is in mortal danger. It will take all of his fast-thinking "baffle them with BS" advertising skills, some stealthy assistance from mysterious double agent, and more than a little luck... if he hopes to stay a step ahead of the ruthless criminals intent on rubbing him out.
THOUGHTS (contains minor spoilers): One of my favorite Hitchcock films. Everyone is perfectly cast. Super suave acting legend Cary Grant was never better than here, as delightfully dapper (and rather daft) New York ad exec Roger Thornhill. Eva-Maire Saint is terrific, smart and smoldering; one of the sexiest women to ever cross paths with Grant. Their chemistry is terrific. Leo G. Carroll is wonderful as the crafty government head honcho who seems indifferent to whether or not the innocent Thornhill will survive the nightmarish web into which he's become accidentally entangled. Of course any hero is only as good as his nemesis. Here, the classy, always unflappable James Mason is in top form as the sophisticated traitor who has secrets to sell. A young Martin Landau is disturbingly evil as one of Mason's high-strung, coldly-cunning henchmen. The film takes us from one great set-up to another - including the deservedly legendary crop duster sequence - all culminating in a breathless chase across the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore. It's equal parts tension & fun. A thoroughly entertaining motion picture experience; a masterpiece that is equal parts style & suspense, by one of the medium's true all-time masters. NORTH BY NORTHWEST is a genuine classic that belongs in every movie fan's collection, no doubt about it.
THE BLU-RAY: Sadly, I was not as impressed by the remastered Blu-ray as I had hoped to be. Don't misunderstand me. The remaster is a fine one, but NORTH BY NORTHWEST doesn't look anywhere near as amazing as the recent remaster of Hitchcock's THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. That film looks absolutely astonishing. NBNW looks good, but not great. There are several excellent bonus features included, which increases the collectability if you're a film buff. Even if you're not, the upgraded picture and improved sound are worth a double-dip if you already own the film in DVD format.
Thornhill replies, "Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets to the theater this evening. To a show I was looking forward to!" And that sets the pace for the whole movie. Politely sinister. Classy humor. Thornhill is played with panache and great comic touch by Cary Grant. Townsend is played with sly menace by James Mason. The lovely Eva Marie Saint doesn't even appear in the 1st half of the movie, then her Eve Kendall takes over the screen and Thornhill's heart - but it costs her.
"North by Northwest" has a couple of the most recognized and parodied scenes in films. The cropduster chasing Cary Grant in the middle of nowhere never loses its fear factor. And who can forget Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall climbing down Mt. Rushmore?
I'm writing this review to let you know that the extras on the 50th Anniversary Edition, 2 DVD's, are simply excellent
North by Northwest (Two-Disc 50th Anniversary Edition):
1. "Cary Grant: A Class Apart". First airing in 2004, this is an 87 minute episode of PBS's "American Masters" TV series. It is narrated by Helen Mirren and Jeremy Northam, with many movie clips and contributing commenters. Cary Grant was in 72 films, including 4 directed by Alfred Hitchcock. He ended his film career voluntarily, quitting while he was at the top. He passed away in 1986 of a stroke. Look at this list of interviewees for this special! I found this extra in-depth and interesting.
- Barbara Grant, his wife from 1981-1986
- Jeanine Basinger, film historian
- Roderick Mann, friend
- Nancy Nelson, author of "Evenings with Cary Grant"
- Betsy Drake, actor, his wife from 1949-1962 and an outspoken pistol!
- Elvis Mitchell, film critic for the "New York Times"
- Peter Bogdanovich, director (he knew Hitchcock and Grant personally, and he participates on the movie commentary track for the DVD Collector's Edition of "To Catch a Thief")
- Martin Landau, actor, who plays James Mason's secretary, Leonard, in "North by Northwest"
- James Harvey, film historian
- Ralph Bellamy, actor, from a 1988 interview (he's not in this film)
- Todd McCarthy, author "Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood"
- David Denby, film critic for "The New Yorker"
- Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., actor, from a 1988 interview
- Howard Hawks, director, from 1967 interview. He directed Grant in "His Girl Friday" (1940) and "Bringing Up Baby" (1938)
- Dina Merrill, actor
- Jill St. John, actor
- Sidney Sheldon, writer
- Ralph Laren, designer, friend
- Eva Marie Saint, actor
- Mel Shavelson, director, he directed Grant in "Houseboat" (1958)
- Deborah Kerr, actor, from 1988 interview
- Ernest Lehman, screenwriter for "North by Northwest"
- Alfred Hitchcock, director, from 1966 interview
- Stanley Donen, directed Grant in "Charade" (1963, with Audrey Hepburn)
- George Kennedy, actor, from 2003 interview
- Samantha Eggar, actor
- and, last but not least, Cary Grant, in that they read excerpts from a series of autobiographical essays that were published in 1963. Grant gave few interviews, but he did open up in these essays.
2. "The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style". This is a 57 minute documentary from 2009. This was also fascinating to watch. It starts with Alfred himself saying, "It may be that I was born with the sense of drama"!
A little bit of everything is covered in this extra, from costumes to music, to Hitchcock's preference for cool blonde leading ladies. Most of the comments, however, and not unexpectedly, have to do with his direction. How he made the angles, light, composition, point of view and camera tell the story and paint the mood. An impressive list of directors talk about Hitchcock's genius:
- Francis Lawrence, director of "I Am Legend" and "Constantine"
- William Friedkin, director of "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection"
- Guillermo del Toro, director of "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hellboy"
- John Carpenter, director of "Halloween" and "Escape From New York"
- Richard Loncraine, director of "Firewall"
- Martin Scorsese, director of "Goodfellas"
- Curtis Hanson, director of "L.A. Confidential" and "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"
- Joe Carnahan, director of "Smokin' Aces"
3. "The Making of North by Northwest", hosted by Eva Marie Saint. Interesting stories are told by several people, including Pat Hitchcock, the director's daughter, and Ernest Lehman, writer for "North by Northwest". Lehman talks about the genesis of the plot, when Hitchcock tells him: "I've always wanted to do a chase across the faces of Mount Rushmore."
4. "North by Northwest: One for the Ages", a short. This looks like it is made up of unused material from extra #2, "The Master's Touch". Also interesting.
5. Stills Gallery
6. Trailers and TV Spots