North By Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock, 131 mins, (PG)

Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau
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The Independent Culture

The title is from Hamlet ("I am but mad north-north-west...") but everything else in this loop-the-loop thriller is pure Hitchcock. Is it, in fact, a thriller at all?

Cary Grant's suave adman Roger O Thornhill finds himself in mortal peril as the innocent man-on-the-run, yet the tone throughout is buoyantly, almost insolently, comic. Written by Ernest Lehman, the movie breezes through the whole ordeal, so that even during the hairiest, scariest moments there's an unspoken sense that Grant's cool-headedness and astonishing good luck will see him through. Who, after just escaping the menace of that crop-dusting plane, would have the nerve to steal an onlooker's truck left parked nearby? A first-rate cast including Eva Marie Saint as the accommodating platinum blonde, James Mason as the silky villain and Jessie Royce Landis as the hero's mother (though she was the same age as Grant) all contribute to its giddy screwball momentum.