Friday, 3 July 2015
Blind Spot Series - North by Northwest
This is my Blind Spot entry for June, just to be clear. I was little behind on the days due to illness. On with the show.
I'm a great Hitchcock fan and the fact that I still hadn't see North by Northwest yet seemed strnge even to me. I hadn't avoided the film, in fact I had had it recorded several times when it had been on TV but somehow it was always mysteriously deleted by others. I had hoped the film would have been in my Hitchcock box set but it wasn't, I had a buy a few others that weren't included too.
Known as the 'spy' film with the famous scene where Cary Grant is running away from a crop duster, I was very open minded and didn't read up anything about it. I watched the trailer on the DVD first to get a taste of the main feature and I was surprised.
Usually, having waited so long to watch something, there is always the worry of anticlimax but not in this case. I made a wise choice in just watching blind sided if you will. The acting a little hammy at points and not to mention the quickest ending, tidy up I had ever seen, the film had a great story, great characters, a surprise and some one the shot were so perfect.
Starting with the story, Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for George Kaplan and is kidnapped, taken to see a man on an elegant estate, questioned then ultimately forced to drink a bottle of bourbon. The man who has kidnapped him is supposedly Lester Townsend, diplomat but in a spy story, nothing is that clear cut. Thornhill of course investigates and is made to look a fool as his kidnappers have tied up all lose ends especially after failing to get rid of him. Thornhill decides to go straight to the source, the UN where he meets the real Townsend. Just he is about to shed some light on the whole ordeal, Townsend is murdered and Thornhill framed.
Thornhill goes on the run. Along the way he is at first aided by Hitchcock blonde Eve Kendall but not all is merry as she is also working with his kidnappers. Thornhill tries to come to some conclusion on events as well as try and find out who the real Kaplan is.
I don't wish to spoil the film for anyone. I enjoyed the twists and turns, they may seem a little predictable but its a fun film, if you can call international espionage, murder and spys fun. Having already seen Hitchcock's second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, it felt similar except there was less at stake which meant that anything could happen and it wouldn't matter. The evil characters played by James Mason and Martin Landau were menacing and the supposed femme fatale was a strong willed woman, not afraid to flaunt or use her sexuality when needed or wanted. Thornhill at first comes across as a bit of a cad in the few minutes we see him in his element before the kidnapping, a very well timed script, as those few minutes when hes walking with his secretary to his club is all that's needed. The film goes head first into the story and never looks back. Events happen swiftly in this film, which works in this genre, no time is wasted, every minute counts. The part of the film that is rushed beyond sense is the last 20 seconds roughly as that is how long the story spends on the end. Slightly on the ridiculous side.
The journey throughout the film shifts focus but the path doesn't change. Right from the start, we are told through questions from villian Vandamme (yes, that is the name) what Kaplan's plans are. The film visits the places mentioned, its was a check for the audience to note this and remember. At first Thornhill wants to find out who kidnapped him, then he wants to find the real Kaplan, then he wants to find Vandamme and finally he looks for Eve. But the path is always the same, maybe with the Mount Rushmore detour.
I was fascinated by the framing of some shots. They were either perfect shots, where everything was in balance, usually during scenes involving Thornhill and Eve. Then there were the eerily empty spaces, again making it ever so obvious that Thornhill did not belong in this story. He was a laid back, ladies man who worked in advertising, he was a mad man, probably best friends with Don Draper but out there on the empty road, he was out of his element.
I was pleasantly surpised and entertained by North by Northwest, a film that I was glad I waited to see for the right reasons. There are a few more Hitchcock films I still need to see, I could start a Blind Spot list just for his films. The film is nothing amazing or unusual but it is classic Hitchcock which is always worth my time.
To see where it all started and for an excellent insight to film, have a look at The Matinee and have a look HERE for more Blind Spot posts from other bloggers.