Reviews

North By Northwest 50th Anniversary Edition

4

Alf’s vintage runaround travels well…

As US academic Camille Paglia gushes on the extras, that shot of the United Nations building in Hitchcock’s ‘wrong man’ classic is “to die for”.

Scorsese says that he watches Hitch’s films with the sound muted, admiring the editing’s musicality; you should crank the volume for the re-boosted cut’n’thrust of Bernard Herrmann’s score.

The intensity of the upgraded colours astound, too. But the giddy joy of Hitch’s proto-actioner is cumulative, its cocktail of elements still exhilarating 50 years on.

On the surface it’s, as Hitch said, “the American 39 Steps”, a semi-screwball chase flick kick-started by an innocent man accused. Beneath, it bristles with political and personal anxieties.

Mistaken for a spy, Cary Grant’s martini-dry ad man flees James Mason’s lisping villain, accompanied by Eva Marie Saint. You can tease male-sexual-identity-crises subtexts from that, or just revel in the cheek and showmanship of North’s censor-goosing innuendo and benchmark set-pieces, scripted to suggestive perfection by Ernest Lehman and helmed to the hilt by Hitch, flaunting a post-Vertigo pomp.

Extras stacked Mount Rushmore-high include Guillermo del Toro praising Hitchcock’s “precision” alongside Marty and Paglia in 90 minutes’ worth of fluff-free celebrations, while a searching Cary Grant doc adds value.

In fact, the set is so wellpolished, it almost seems rude to demand a Vertigo Blu-ray this minute… Almost.

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