Texas Public Radio has some knack for timing, and they couldn't possibly know it in this case: The spanking-new Minority Report has a sequence in a car factory in which Tom Cruise is trapped in an automobile as it rolls down the assembly line. In North by Northwest (DVD, Warner Bros.), as Alfred Hitchcock told François Truffaut, the director wanted to shoot a scene in which we see a car being assembled piece by piece; then, as the car leaves the assembly line, the door is opened and a freshly murdered corpse rolls out.
That was a brilliant idea, but North by Northwest already had more than its share of those, including two set pieces that are legendary. One is the climactic chase scene on the faces of Mount Rushmore. The other, as immortal for its immaculate execution as for the concept behind it, is a sequence in which Cary Grant is stranded in the middle of a cornfield while a crop duster chases him.
With spectacles like that you shouldn't need a plot, but NXNW has a doozie that incorporates Hitch's favorite themes: the man accused of a crime he didn't commit, the woman for whom duty and sex are impossibly tangled, mistaken identity, and the movie star as big as any theme, Cary Grant. Oh, and a love scene that purportedly features the "longest kiss in screen history." It is a greatest hits compendium of Hitchcock's American years, and while it lacks the deep psychological thrust of Vertigo, it's an absolute must-see.
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock; writ. Ernest Lehman; feat. Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau, Leo G. Carroll (unrated)
TEXAS PUBLIC RADIO'S CINEMA TUESDAYS: NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Tuesday, July 16
$10 members, $12 non-members
AMC Huebner Oaks