Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest is a blithely implausible chase thriller in which glibly feckless ad-man Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) becomes the object of a cross-country spy hunt when he is mistaken for a government agent – the mysterious “Mr Kaplan” – by a ruthless espionage organisation.
It’s packed with artful set pieces characteristic of Hitch, including Grant being pursued across the prairie by a crop-duster and a climax on Mount Rushmore – which prompted Hitchcock to suggest the film be called “The Man Who Sneezed in Lincoln’s Nose”.
Eva Marie Saint smoulders sexily as Eve Kendall, and there’s a masterclass in silky villainy from James Mason and a young Martin Landau.
In between the pursuit sequences, the two leads engage in frisky thrust-and-parry dialogue, as though they’d somehow wandered out of a romantic comedy into a big-budget thriller and can’t quite get their bearings.
North by Northwest is Hitchcock in light, likeable mode. The fearsome and intimate malevolence of Psycho (1960) was only a year away . . .
Eva Marie Saint
Jessie Royce Landis
Leo G Carroll