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North By Northwest (1959)

Warner Bros.

Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau.

Rating: NR.

Run time: 136 mins

Genre: Drama

Verdict: Brilliant (see rating system)

Director Alfred Hitchcock followed his masterpiece Vertigo (1958) with the equally impressive adventure yarn North By Northwest (1959).

For many fans, this is THE best picture made by Hitchcock and his frequent star Cary Grant - indeed they are both on top of their game in this fast paced, often amusing spy romp.

Grant is New York ad executive Roger Thornhill, who somehow gets mistaken by foreign agents for a U.S. government secret agent named George Kaplan. Bundled out of a bar by a couple of sinister "heavies" and driven out to a remote Long Island mansion, Thornhill protests an absurd case of mistaken identity to the suave ringleader Philip Vandamm (James Mason).

Vandamm, who plans to smuggle top secret information out of the country, is convinced Thornhill is lying, and orders his gang (including the young Martin Landau) to get him drunk for a "pleasant ride back to town".

This is just the start of Thornhill's problems as he's framed for murder at the United Nations, pursued by cops, chased by a plane and seduced on a train by a lethal blonde (Eva Marie Saint) who might be trying to kill him.

It's breathless stuff, featuring many classic moments including a chase across the faces of Mount Rushmore. And Grant and Eva Marie Saint make for a hot couple.

The restored VistaVision picture has rightly been touted as one of the best examples of digital remastering and there's great sound to go with it, perfect for composer Bernard Herrmann's romantic score.

The DVD features a great documentary hosted by Eva Marie Saint on the making of the movie, including the droll observations of screenwriter Ernest Lehman and a funny Hitchcock impersonation by Martin Landau.

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