Sunday Matinee: North By Northwest

sunday-matineeI think it’s time, in the words of the master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock for “a holiday fun trip”.

One of my favourite movies of Hitchcock’s is this 1959 adventure spy chase movie, North by Northwest. Is it Hitchcock’s best, arguable no, but it’s up there. It uses one of Hitchcock’s favourite plotlines, an innocent man mistaken for someone else, in this case Carey Grant is mistaken for a spy and ends up getting chased across the U.S. with bad guy spies on his trail while he’s trying to find the real spy, George Kaplan.

North by NorthwestFrom the opening credits created by Saul Bass to the awesome Bernard Herrmann score, everything about this movie is awesome. Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, a businessman who while lunching with some friends inadvertently raises his hand at the same time as a “George Kaplan” is being paged. Enemy spies think that Thornhill is Kaplan and kidnap him. They take Thornhill to an estate in the country where he’s interrogated by head bad guy spy Vandamm (James Mason). Vandamm doesn’t believe Thornhill’s claims of innocence and promptly has Thornhill forced feed alcohol and stuck in a car to kill him off in what is supposed to look like an accident. Before they get their chance Thornhill drunkenly comes to and drives off narrowly escaping and getting arrested for drunken driving.

Nobody believes Thornhill’s claims of a spy plot and when he along with the police return to the estate they find it belongs to a Mr. Townsend, an United Nations diplomat. Thornhill goes to the United Nations to talk to Townsend but Townsend is assassinated mid-conversation and it looks like Thornhill did it. Now a wanted man Thornhill finds out that Kaplan has left the city and starts to follow the string of hotels that Kaplan is staying at while avoiding the police. He boards a train and runs into the lovely Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps hide him from the police. But there’s more to Miss Kendall than meets the eye. And why is Vandamm and his henchman lackey Leonard (Martin Landau) also on the train?

I love this movie. It’s fun fast paced and just plain excellent. Carey Grant is awesome and James Mason is suitable evil. In some ways this movie is a precursor to today’s summer blockbusters, big name stars, tension, thrills and action scenes set on a historical monument. Really the perfect summer movie.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.

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