North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest (1959) movie poster

director Alfred Hitchcock
viewed: 12/28/2012 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

On a bit of an epic drive to end out the movie-going year for 2012, I scheduled a number of trips to the Castro for some classic films with the kids.  It had been decades since I had seen Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and after watching Psycho (1960) with the kids earlier this year, I thought it a decent idea to catch a few more Hitchcocks before too long.  So this seemed an apt outing.  Clara ended up doing something else, so it was just Felix and me.

Often cited as the template for the Hollywood action film of years and years to come, North by Northwest is one of those films that makes “Best of All-Time” lists.  And it’s quite great.

Cary Grant is typically impeccable with his comic timing in his terse and tense moments as the “wrong man” hunted by bad spies and sent looking for the mysterious man for whom he’s been mistaken.  Taking up with the very pretty Eva Marie Saint, parrying with James Mason and Martin Landau, he treks from New York City to Chicago to South Dakota to the faces of Mount Rushmore in one of cinema’s classic classic iconic iconic moments.  Actually, this film has more than a few of them.  And that’s no doubt part of why it’s such a traditional favorite.

Felix found it a little hard to follow, but he liked it pretty well.  It’s true, any time you have double agents, microfilm (what’s that? says a child of this century), and some rapid paced dialogue, it’s easy to get left behind on what’s happening.

I take it back.  I think the last time I saw this film was in film school, so, probably about 15 years ago.  The key memory I have of it from that time was the final shot of the film.  Too much Freudian analysis (or maybe just the right amount of it) makes the punchy final image of the train zooming into the tunnel as we cut away from Cary and Eva Marie as they settle into their nuptial bed aboard the interstate train came as downright hysterical.

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