'North by Northwest (50th Anniversary Edition)'
(Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint , et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1959) 2009 / Warner Video)
Overview: Cary Grant is the screen's supreme man-on-the-run in his fourth and final teaming with Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock. He plays a Manhattan adman plunged into a realm of spy (James Mason) and counterspy (Eva Marie Saint) and variously abducted, framed for murder, chased, and in a signature set-piece, crop-dusted. He also hangs for dear life from the facial features of Mount Rushmore's Presidents.
DVD Verdict: It's hard to believe that this is the 50th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's great romantic thriller starring a perfectly cast Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint and marvelous supporting work by a "jealous" James Mason, a "gay" Martin Landau and an always droll Leo G. Carroll as a cynical and unflappable government agent.
But at the heart of this terrific film that never seems old lies the brilliant "double-chase" original screenplay by the late Ernest Lehman.
Inspired by a notion Hitchcock expressed to Lehman that he always wanted to direct a movie that included a chase across the faces of Mt. Rushmore, the two film geniuses slowly built a story from that lowly beginning.
Lehman was inspired to maintain a tone of a sometimes funny but always thrilling and finally romantic plot that never lags and ends with the iconic climax that Hitchcock initially ordered.
In preproduction it was called "The Man in Lincoln's Nose." The idea of the main character running from and to something and keeping him almost as confused as the audience about what was really going on has now connected in a direct way to three generations of movie lovers. By identifying with our on-screen hero, we can be brave, witty, loyal to something noble and be rewarded with true love.
Lehman's great creation of a dapper movie hero who remains confident, debonair and witty is the model for the cinematic transition of James Bond from a lesser literary figure to a screen personae.
Hitchcock was trained as an artist and his films are composed with an efficient eye to visualizing the emotion of the story with images first and dialogue second. He worked out everything - all the shots -- on note cards. He said that when he was done with his story-board, he felt he had already directed the film. When he was actually shooting scenes, he rarely exposed film that could be edited in any way other than what he had already determined.
Bernard Herrmann's memorable score, certainly among his best, adds immensely to the tone of the film; never forecasting events but always supporting the tension or romance. For many, recalling certain films, it's Hermann's score that first comes to mind. (Try thinking of "Psycho" without the screeching violins.) [RS] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
Commentary by Ernest Lehman
New 2009 Documentary: The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style
Cary Grant: A Class Apart [2003 TCM Documentary]
North By Northwest: One for the Ages
Vintage 2000 Documentary Destination Hitchcock: The Making of 'North By Northwest'