You probably knew this already, but on its 50th birthday, it bears repeating: "North by Northwest" is one of Alfred Hitchcock's very best films, right up there alongside "Psycho," "Rear Window" and "Strangers on a Train." That also makes it among cinema's all-time greatest thrillers.
To celebrate its five decades of awesomeness, Warner Home Video has reissued it in a two-disc anniversary edition, restored to a level of crispness likely unseen since its theatrical premiere. Whether you're seeing it for the first time or the fifth, the picture is a revelation on several levels.
Cary Grant portrays ad man Roger Thornhill, who's mistaken for a secret agent for the CIA. This mishap sends him running across the greater United States for his life; on the upside, it also leads him into the arms of the comely Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). From start to finish, Thornhill's adventures comprise one indelible set piece after another: the cropduster attack; the Mount Rushmore chase, the hot-hot-hot seduction on a train; and even the Saul Bass-energized title sequence.
It's no mistake that Hitchcock makes his requisite cameo at the beginning, just missing a departing public bus; this movie takes off and remains relentless in its suspense, whether you're ready or not.
Four documentaries of varying length dot disc two. Among them, be sure to watch "Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest" and the new "The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style," which is like an introductory film class to all his tricks of the trade — not just on "NXNW," but the entirety of his brilliant career. —Rod Lott