Since writing my last blog post entitled, 100 Movies for my 30th Year, I have checked several of the “must-see” titles off my list. Thankfully my library has supplied several of the older titles while Netflix streaming actually has a fairly good variety of classic films. I thought it would be fun to review the films as I watch them, so keep reading for my reviews of North by Northwest, Jaws and Psycho!
North by Northwest
While not usually a fan of Cary Grant, I enjoyed this film! Alfred Hitchcock was a master in his craft, and this suspense/spy thriller has provided keynotes for filmmakers who followed. Seeing the actors in iconic places such as the United Nations, Grand Central Station and Mount Rushmore provided plenty of enjoyment.
If you watch this movie, notice the following:
– Eva Marie Saint’s hair was cut short as directed by Hitchcock, and adds vulnerability to her otherwise strong character
– Although a thriller, most of the movie is filmed in bright sunlight
– The title is never fully referenced in the film and is left up to the audience to decipher why Hitchcock chose to call it North by Northwest
I confess, after seeing this film, I was puzzled why it was included on the 100 Best Films list according to the AFI. Then I realized: much of the movie was a nod to the classic book, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. The search for the creature lurking under the water, ready to strike at the most innocent…the veteran Quinn (played by Robert Shaw) who, like Captain Ahab, is obsessed with hunting and killing this great creature…the three main characters searching for the shark on the Orca boat, named after the predatory killer whale.
Composer John Williams won an Oscar for his original score and it is completely understandable why. His use of two notes has, in my opinion, never been rivaled and makes this movie unforgettable. The acting is strange at times however, and although Richard Dreyfuss fully embraced his role he takes it over the top on several occasions. Many of the supporting characters are rather forgettable but perhaps that was intentional, so that the audience concentrates on the killer shark that strikes at young and old alike.
If you watch the movie, notice the following:
Charlton Heston was considered for the role of Chief Brody, played by Roy Sheider
The film editing is incredible. Verna Fields was the editor; this was her last film before she passed away
Most of the shark footage was done with mechanical sharks, although the superb editing makes them look much more real
It’s true, I had never seen this classic thriller, although the shower scene was referenced in school studies on many occasions. The theme is complex and dark, holding your attention because of its psychological intensity. The acting was absolutely superb and even though Janet Leigh’s character is killed off, she is completely memorable. The true acting genius of the film is Anthony Perkins, who plays child-like but complex Norman. At first, you want to hug him, then you grow suspicious, but still want to give him the benefit of the doubt, then your eyes widen in shock when his “true” character is revealed. The musical score, especially the screeching violins that accompany the shower scene, sets the tone for the whole film. The screenplay itself is a work of art.
If you watch this film, notice the following:
Hitchcock decided to film this in black and white instead of Technicolor, adding to the depth of the plot’s complexity
The film’s screenplay was adapted from a novel of the same name, based on a real-life character (a psychotic killer in Wisconsin)
Stuffed birds and reflecting mirrors are ever-present, showing layered symbolic imagery in its finest
The horizontal and vertical lines that streak across the screen during opening credits are a nod to the split and schizophrenic personality of the character of Norman
Check out the movie challenge I am completing during my 30th year in this blog post, 100 Movies for my 30th Year!
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