131 minutes| U.S.A.| 1959| Colour| Dolby Digital Stereo| 35mm

Along with the pre-war The Lady Vanishes, this must be Hitchcock’s most purely entertaining film. While he was completing Vertigo, Ernest Lehman spent a year working out a script that would encapsulate the essence of Hitchcock’s adventure films in terms of structure, and the result is perfect in every detail – a relaxation after Vertigo, but in no way unserious. The formula of The 39 Steps – falsely accused hero, travel, danger, romance, and a hectic four-day time-span – is reworked for America, for Cary Grant, and for colour and VistaVision. The attack by a crop-dusting plane has acquired an iconic status, but the film is a succession of equally strong scenes, including a killing at the United Nations, and a beautifully managed final section on and around Mount Rushmore. One of Hitchcock’s great skills was his choice, and use, of collaborators: like Vertigo and Psycho, North by Northwest is hard to imagine without Bernard Herrmann’s great score.

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