In watching older movies, it’s hard to determine just how good of a film what you’re watching would be to the people who first saw it. As a for instance, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho loses a lot of its intensity after however many decades. North By Northwest is another example of how dated some movies can get. On the other hand, it’s also a great example of just how ageless and great some movies are.
So, here’s how I’m going to break it down for you. We’re going to talk about the aspects of North By Northwest that have failed and succeeded at maintaining a timeless awesomeness. We’ll start off with the things that don’t age so well.
1) Action sequences
As heart-stopping and mind-blowing as it might have been in 1959 to see Carey Grant driving drunk, getting chased by airplanes, and fighting baddies on the face of Mount Rushmore, it’s not, by any means, easy to get caught up its action. Moreso, they make for an interesting study into what was considered “thrilling” during the middle of the 20th century. Now, the stunts would be both more believable and more extraordinary, but it’s still interesting, even though it’s distracting, to see the creativity and limitations of creating chills without the benefit of elaborate stunts or CGI.
2) Happy, married endings
Story-telling has evolved (or de-volved, depending on who you ask) away from needing marital bliss to sum up a good story. Modern audiences are just as happy seeing two people hanging out, being happy together, as they would be having a newly married couple happily gushing, calling the wife by her newfound last name. As an audience, we’ve moved on.
And that’s about all I’ve got. Now, here is a list of things that will never get old.
1) Eva Marie Saint
Generally, with movies from this era, I question the tastes of the general population, but when it comes to the love affair with Eva Marie Saint, I am totally on board. Sure, she’s gorgeous, but she also plays her part with such an earnest, confident sexuality that it’s impossible to not at all fall in love with her.
2) Great writing.
Who doesn’t love Carey Grant? And, more importantly, who doesn’t love watching Carey Grant deliver quick, clever dialogue? Loaded with enough charm to de-knicker a convent with a single glance, Grant’s Roger Thornhill is a witty rogue who responds to even the most life-threatening danger with quip after quip.
3) Those wicked cool opening credits.
Although I’m fairly confident that the famous title sequence could be replicated in about twelve minutes by someone with enough knowledge of graphic design, it still makes for a really cool, immediately engaging way to start off the film.
4) A great story.
North By Northwest is a great story to follow along with. At first, you watch it like a mystery, trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. Then, during an unexpected exposition, where everything is explained to you, it turns into a character piece, watching what happens to a man put in an impossibly unfair situation. Then, it turns into a thriller, as the man loses the ability to find himself, because of the number of people trying to kill him. It flips and flops between a bunch of different styles, all without losing the consistency of its quality. By the end, you’re not quite sure what you’ve watched, but you’ve had a great time doing it.