This 1959 Hitchcock thriller gathered three Academy Award nominations: for
Ernest Lehman's writing, and for its art direction and editing; yet Bernard
Herrmann's exciting score, did not score a nomination. As it turned out, the
film won no Oscars.
This DVD incarnation not only includes crystal clear images and crisp sound
of this MGM release, in VistaVison, but also a music-only Audio track showcasing
Bernard Herrmann's score. And the good news is that many UK stores are selling
this fine album for only £9:99!
This DVD really is feature-rich with a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse
at the progress of the production of the film in the 40 minute 'Destination
Hitchcock: the Making of North by Northwest.' It stars Eva Marie Saint, Martin
Landau, Hitch's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, and the original screenplay writer
Ernest Lehman (introduced to Hitch by Bernard Herrmann). Lehman conspired with
Hitchcock to deceive MGM into thinking they were working on both North by
Northwest and The Wreck of the Mary Deare simultaneously (the
latter film was eventually abandoned by both of them; Lehman adamant that he
could not develop the story – the film that starred Gary Cooper flopped). Another
unusual but absorbing feature is the feature-length commentary by Lehman who
explains that he could not have written the story without meticulous research
of all the film's many locales spread across the U.S.A. and how he had writer's
block in working out the denouement of the story. Of special interest is his
commentary over the crop-dusting scene. [See also the
review of William Golding's book, Which Lie Did I Tell – More Adventures in the Screen Trade reviewed on this site, this
month which includes the full screenplay of this famous scene.] Alas
Lehman hardly mentions Herrmann's score at all, only to say how effective it
is in the scene where he is force fed a whole bottle of bourbon and left to
drive a car down a windy cliff road.
Herrmann's score is, of course, one of his Hitchcock film music classics. It
heightens the tension and drives the action forward with its wild and colourful
dazzling and dizzy music for Cary Grant's frenetic adventures, music that Herrmann
himself described as, "a kaleidoscopic orchestral fandango…"
Brilliant and great value for its modest price.