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Year:
1959
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill
Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall
James Mason as Phillip Vandamm
Jessie Royce Landis as Clara Thornhill
Leo G. Carroll as The Professor
Josephine Hutchinson as Mrs. Townsend
Philip Ober as Lester Townsend
Martin Landau as Leonard
Adam Williams as Valerian
Edward Platt as Victor Larrabee
Les Tremayne as Auctioneer
Philip Coolidge as Dr. Cross
Patrick McVey as Sergeant Flamm - Chicago Policeman
Storyline: Madison Avenue advertising man Roger Thornhill finds himself thrust into the world of spies when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. Foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard try to eliminate him but when Thornhill tries to make sense of the case, he is framed for murder. Now on the run from the police, he manages to board the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago where he meets a beautiful blond, Eve Kendall, who helps him to evade the authorities. His world is turned upside down yet again when he learns that Eve isn't the innocent bystander he thought she was. Not all is as it seems however, leading to a dramatic rescue and escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore.
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Reviews
Simply Magical Moviemaking
Possibly the greatest ever thriller, NbNW combines terrific acting, dialogue, cinematography, music and storyline. But the real standout is the editing. If there was ever a film that merited the cliché "a nonstop thrill ride", it's this one. The pace never slackens. I particularly like how it cuts straight from the Mt Rushmore face to the train bunkbed. I hate the anticlimactic, overlong, hokey endings of most thrillers. The final scene (scenelet) is very short, romantic dénouement, à la James Bond. How refreshing.

Oh, the champagne dialogue in this movie is simply premier cru, darlings! Eve: "You don't believe in marriage." - Thornhill [indignant]: "But I've been married twice." - Eve: "See what I mean?" Or take this repartee... Vandamm: "Seems to me you fellows could stand a little less training from the FBI, and a little more from the Actors' Studio." - Thornhill: "Apparently, the only performance that'll satisfy you is when I play dead." - Vandamm: "Your very next role. You'll be quite convincing, I assure you."

The dialogue is also very risqué for a 1950s film in places. In the dining car, for example, Thornhill: "The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her." This thinly-veiled propositioning of Eve/Eva for sex, which sounds banal these days, would have been outrageously shocking to its original 50s audience. Likewise, "I'm a big girl." - "Yeah, and in all the right places, too." A cliché now, but imagine its impact then. "I've heard nothing but innuendoes," says Vandamm at one stage. He's right; there are plenty in this movie's verbal and visual imagery.

This dialogue, and the general production design, conspire to create product that, unlike other Hitchcock thrillers like Rear Window and Psycho, doesn't appear dated now. The design is ultramodernist, which is reflected in the architecture of the locations like the NYC UN HQ and the Rushmore lodge.

A convoluted plot is usually the result of bad scripting or an attempt to mask a movie's deficiencies in other areas. As usual, Hitchcock keeps the plot dead simple and doesn't complicate matters by trying to explain. It's just some kind of meaningless Cold War spy thing. This perfectly suffices, for it's quite incidental to the thrilling chase that forms the core of the film. What seem like hokey, incredible contrivances, such as Eve's coming on so strong to Thornhill in the dining car (when we think her unaware that he's not a real murderer) are soon enough fascinatingly demystified. (She's in cahoots with Vandamm, or, as we later find, an undercover agent trying to expose him!)

Fantastic performances from Cary Grant, James Mason, Eva-Marie Saint and a much-underused Martin Landau. If there's one criticism, it's that Cary Grant is preternaturally unflappable as the urban sophisticate plunged into a living nightmare. He always retains his self-assured, even arrogant, panache and never panics. In fact, with that ever-present twinkle in his eye, he seems to be getting perverse enjoyment from his own misfortunes. However, his modulated performance remains just the right side of comicality.

Eva-Marie Saint is camera-loved as the lethal seductress. She seems the perfect Bond girl. Had her star risen a few years later, I'm sure she'd have been captivating Connery. In fact, this movie shows that Hitchcock could have directed James Bond. It's no secret Bond's film incarnation was modelled to some extent on Cary Grant's supersuave persona in this film.

A young-looking Martin Landau is effective as the menacing sidekick, although it's only in the final scene in the Rushmore lodge that he has any quality screen time or lines. James Mason underplays the role of the polished, oleaginous villain perfectly. His very British voice and demeanour conveys menace by suggestion, not overt declaration. He too, like Saint, would have been ideal in a Bond film. He doesn't sound ridiculous mouthing lines like, "A bit naughty, using real bullets!" [my paraphrase]

[Continuity: In the scene in Eve's hotel room, Thornhill calls for the valet to sponge and press his suit. He's told it'll take 20 minutes and a guy comes to collect the suit a minute later. He pretends to take a shower, whilst Eve absconds. Thornhill leaves immediately, and he doesn't return to the hotel. However, in the next scene, we see him wearing the same suit, perfectly sponged and pressed. There's no way he could have returned to the hotel to collect the suit.]
1999-06-05
Classic thriller - I love it!
Roger Thornhill is an advertising man. However when he is kidnapped it is clear that he has been mistaken for someone else. When he tries to find out what's going he is framed for murder and sets out on a cross country run to survive. Along the way he meets danger, adventure and beauty in the shape of the mysterious Eve Kendall. However when he finds the truth he is drawn towards a final showdown with the dangerous Vandamm.

Rightly regarded as a classic and can more than compete with today's thrillers that too often rely on special effects to make up for the lack of genuine suspense. Here the plot requires a great deal of faith, but it is brought off with such style and energy that it is totally absorbing. The action is great and the several main scenes have become part of popular culture and are regularly spoofed on TV etc. The romance works as well and Thornhill and Kendall exchange plenty of good scenes.

The dialogue is great and the direction is faultless from Hitchcock. Many thrillers run over 2 hours - but only the good ones can stand up to repeated viewings. Northwest can take back to back viewings it is so good. The plot may have been put together as shooting went (as was the case with at least

one key scene) but it all stands together well. The acting is also perfect, Grant's rebirth as a thriller man is brilliant and is one of Hitchcock's best everyman characters. Marie-Saint is yet another dangerous blonde but is very good. James `The Voice' Mason is excellent, while Landau adds great homosexual subtext to his character. The ever present Leo G Carroll IS Mr Waverly but is still enjoyable and even support roles like Landis as Thornhill's mother is perfection!

Over 40 years on this film has barely dated. Hearing the music is enough to make me want to see it again, while the direction, set pieces, dialogue and performances are all pitch perfect. A wonderful thriller for young and old - no sex, no swearing, all thrills.
2002-07-27
Paging Mr. Kaplan… Mr George Kaplan..
"North By Northwest" is probably well.. many things! Probably the best mistaken identity film ever made, the film with the most exciting chase sequences (Man vs. plane!), the most awesome set pieces made (Mount Rushmore!) the funniest "goof" on screen (kid holding his ears when the gun goes off!) and probably my favorite Hitchcock movie ever. Cary Grant is just amazing in this totally insane plot of mild-mannered ad executive getting thrust into a ridiculous game of underworld espionage, where he's forced to run from planes, gets tied up in a drunk driving rap, is nearly run over by a semi AND has to fight off James Mason and Martin Landau! Ah well, if you're gunning for a blonde as smoking as Eva Marie-Saint, wouldn't you? A lot of this is so over the top to be taken totally seriously, and mostly it's just pure popcorn fun. And cinema doesn't get any better or snarkier then the auction scene. A must see, if you're foolish enough for not having seen it yet.
2005-12-24
All things point to this being one of Hitch's very best - 91%
For only my second Hitchcock picture (I know, bit behind the times!), I decided to go for one of his more iconic pictures. Movies like this have dual appeal to me - full of classic moments and yet, they maintain a mystery to me as the basic bones of the film are usually forgotten. "Rope" was a genuine surprise despite feeling a little stagey but this tense, taut thriller remains an utterly compelling picture even today. It might not be Hitch's best picture but to ignore "North By Northwest" would be a very grave mistake.

Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, an advertising executive in New York who suddenly finds himself thrust into a terrifying world that he literally knows nothing about. Mistaken by a couple of thugs for someone called George Kaplan, he is bundled into a car and driven to the home of urbane villain Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) who ignores Thornhill's pleas for clemency. Once Thornhill escapes barely with his life, he finds himself pursued by law-enforcement across the US after he is mistaken for an assassin who strikes at the UN Building. His only chance is to track down the real George Kaplan (if he even exists) and on-board a train, he encounters bewitching blonde Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) but can anyone really be trusted?

Even without such legendary moments like Grant being chased by a crop-duster or scrambling over the faces of Mt Rushmore, "North By Northwest" feels ahead of its time. In many ways, it feels like an early James Bond flick - full of stunning locations, an epic plot and most of all, a charismatic and witty lead in Grant whose performance as the out-of-his-depth hero is not just believable but actually provides the movie with a recognisable core. Alongside Grant, Saint is a classy femme fatale with looks to kill and lines for any vamp to savour. Mason, able to play baddies in his sleep, is in his element as the mastermind one step ahead at all times. And running throughout, naturally, is that tension that Hitch is rightly famous for - the combination of dramatic music, lengthy sequences when nothing is said and frankly stunning shots. Take the crop-duster scene as an example. Next to no dialogue or music, the creeping fear the film summons as we see the plane steer around for another pass and the terror as you realise that there is almost nothing Thornhill could do.

There are any number of so-called 'thrillers' that have been released since that simply don't fulfil their promise. "North By Northwest" is an exception. In the same way that "Heat" is the template for all cop dramas and "The Godfather" is the Don for mob movies, this should be considered the basis for any decent spy flick. The only thing I didn't like was the ending which came out of nothing due to probably the most out-of-place and unwelcome cut I've ever seen in a movie, flicking from a moment of high drama and danger to a post-story conclusion in the blink of an eye. It nearly soured my opinion of the film as a whole but I'm not gonna let one mistake put me off. "North By Northwest" is an absorbing, classy movie that isn't held in the same regard as films like "Vertigo" or "Psycho". In the same way that "Rope" surprised me, the quality of "North By Northwest" really took my breath away and I would argue that this is still a wonderful movie if released today. I'm thinking I need to watch more Hitchcock film from here on...
2013-09-27
A deliriously entertaining masterwork
Alfred Hitchcock was a certified genius of a filmmaker. He could scare you, shock you, surprise you, enthrall you, make you think, make you smile, make you laugh, and all the while making you a part and parcel of the storytelling and action in his film. His goal was always to make the audience a part of the action and take them along for the ride. He may do this to absolute perfection in this film, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, my absolute favorite film of his. It's debatable whether or not this is his greatest film. A lot of so-called film 'critics' will swear by VERTIGO(although I'm not crazy about it), some say PSYCHO, others say NOTORIOUS, some prefer SHADOW OF A DOUBT, others REBECCA. Who knows? I just know that NORTHW BY NORTHWEST, without a doubt, is the most thoroughly enjoyable, fun, fascinating, entertaining, and eye-popping film that Hitchcock ever did. I love every frame of it. The first 30 minutes alone is more captivating, exciting and entertaining than 99.9% of the crap they throw at us nowadays in the movies.

Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, a normal, run-of-the-mill advertising agency executive. Grant deserves all praise of being the legend that he truly was for what he does in this film. Grant's Roger Thornhill is one of 'us', a fairly regular everyday Joe who gets thrust in the most convoluted of situations: mistaken for a government agent named 'Kaplan' by treacherous U.S. enemies (led by the classy James Mason), Thornhill is whisked off captive one evening and his life is threatened and he is almost killed, but he thankfully escapes his captors and so the fun begins in finding out who these bad guys are and why they think he is Kaplan.

The film has a kind of snowball effect. Each situation that Thornhill is thrown into or gets himself into is more dangerous than the previous one and he has to find some way to get himself out of it. Hitchcock almost seems to relish scaring the Bejesus out of this guy just to see how he will slick or cajole his way out of it. Thornhill is really an unwitting and unexpected pawn in the battle between U.S. agents and the enemy traitors.

All the qualities that made Cary Grant a star shine through in this film: he is handsome, classy, witty, funny, sarcastic, and surprisingly agile. Whoever thought he could pull off being an action hero after all those years of playing primarily romantic comedies? But he totally gives a convincing performance in this film.

Of course at some point we are introduced to the femme fatale, in this case Eva Marie Saint, who is super-sexy and mysterious in this role. Saint's character makes you realize why so many women found Cary Grant so charming and irresistible.

The film has some of the most memorable sequences and set pieces ever in history: the United Nations murder, the Mount Rushmore finale, and most of all, that magnificent crop-dusting sequence smack dab in the middle of the film that forever captured the hearts, minds, and imaginations of moviegoers everywhere. The scene is all at once action-packed, scary, dangerous, exciting, and funny.

For me, this Hitchcock film (first shown in 1959) can be seen as a very early example of a blockbuster summer action movie. It has all the elements: a colorful look and feel, lots of outdoor scenery, nonstop action, a breathtaking pace, and a central character through which the story is told and that we could all identify with and root for.

Truly a great achievement by both Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant, with big-time assists from a great cast of supporting actors and actresses, a witty script, and the beautiful scenery of various U.S. locations.
2008-03-15
A top notch Hitchcock film...score: 9 (out of 10)
I am not much of a Hitchcock guru as some people are mainly because I find most of his films as being the same type of scenario - human chasing something or someone, or human being chased by something or someone. No where is this more evident than in this movie. The film opens when Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) comes out of his Madison Avenue office to attend a social gathering at a local bar. While he is in the bar, two thugs mistake him for a double agent and, of course, he is abducted. He is transferred to the whereabouts of a certain Mr. Lester Townsend (James Mason). I am not going to give out any more details except from there on out, Thornhill winds up being chased and chases the culprits, who want to see his demise, to the final scene at Mount Rushmore. Along the way, he finds time for romance with a certain lady friend (Eva Marie Saint). The best part of the movie happens when Thornhill is pursued through a cornfield by a crop duster - a classic Hitchcock scene.
1998-12-13
The Adventures Of Mr. Thornhill
My opinion of this film is mixed. At times the dialogue is clever and amusing. And the final fifteen minutes offer some genuine suspense, together with excellent visual perspective. During this final sequence, the physically risky maneuvers of the main characters, ordinary and vulnerable, contrast thematically with the stone-cold lifelessness of past characters, grand and immortal.

But oh my, the trial of having to sit through two hours getting to that last sequence. Highly contrived, the adventure plot is overblown with sequences that defy logic and scatter the location settings in a near-random manner. As such, the plot seems chaotic, disorganized, and unedited. Major sections could have been excised, or reduced in length. I think the film runs about thirty minutes too long.

Color cinematography is acceptable for the 1950s. Today, the cinematography looks antiquated and clunky, with day-for-night camera filters in outdoor scenes, and lots of rear-screen projections.

As advertising man Roger Thornhill, Cary Grant is clearly miscast, looking way too old for the role. I have no problem with the rest of the casting. And James Mason is always a delight to watch and listen to.

There are some memorable visuals in this film, like the crop-dusting sequence. But overall, "North By Northwest" offers a poor script, until near the end. Hitchcock made some really terrific films in his day. But this is not one of them.
2012-11-02
"The Man Who Sneezed in Lincoln's Nose"
Alfred Hitchcock knew a recipe for a perfect thriller because he had made many but among his films, "North by Northwest" (1959) stands out as a great combination of suspense, sex, and humor. The film is based on a case of mistaken identity that in a course of a few days makes a likable (even if slightly arrogant) Manhattan ad-man Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) the object of a cross country spy hunt. Having no clue what is happening to him, Thornhill will be kidnapped by the spies, brought to an unknown mansion and after the questioning forced to get drunk. He will get arrested for a stealing a car and drunk driving of which he has no recollection. It is just the beginning. Next, he finds himself in the UN building talking to a man who drops dead in the middle of the conversation in front of hundreds of people. The worst part – the man is murdered and Thornhill has the murder weapon, the knife in his hand. Both, the police and the spies are on his trail and his only hope is to escape NYC by train where a very sexy blonde named Eve (Eva Marie Saint) is ready to help him. Their encounter leads to one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed without any sexual act involved.

The film is packed with the witty and funny dialogs and one- liners as well as with artful and imaginative set pieces including Grant running for his life across the prairie from an evil crop-duster and the climatic chase on Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock who always wanted to make a film with two scenes – a chase on the face of a president and the attempt to wake up the Peru Ambassador during the assembly in UN who turned to be dead, had his dreams fulfilled with "North by Northwest" which he suggested should be called "The Man Who Sneezed in Lincoln's Nose". Among many of film's pleasures are Eva Marie Saint as sexy stranger on a train and James Mason and young Martin Landau as a duet of villains with a complicated relationship.
2007-03-07
One of the best classic movies
When Hitchcock Truffaut was asked about the little merit that gave this kind of movie to benefit dramas like Bicycle Thieves, and Truffaut himself loved the script of this incredible movie, for that matter, for being terribly absurd, Hitchcock replied that the taste for the absurd wore it entirely religious. When one gets to see With North by Northwest, sets and does not stop. Because, unlike other films of the teacher, this starts at 2 minutes. And it's something as absurd as a mistake. The McGuffin elevated to masterpiece.

As I said, based on the most absurd of all, an error in a phone call, Hitch builds a kind of parody spy film, based on one mistake after another, from one absurd fact followed by another fact even absurd. But the success of this film is not taking itself seriously. It is still a very great Hitchcock joke, a tease the viewer. Probably, if the great script by Ernie Lehmann had fallen into other hands, would have ended up as a mere spy movie, with good and bad clearly differentiated. but with the teacher becomes a comedy that borders on pure moments of surrealism, like the fact that Cary Grant's mother was only 10 months older than him, or the drunken scene at the police station or the auction are pure anthology surrealism and absurdity free. But none like the plane. With nothing to fumigate, Hitchcock gives us a plane in the middle of nowhere, the most absurd of killing someone, and get it is great, because another director would have made us stupid with this free sundries the image.

With a prodigious Cary Grant, James Mason and has become the iconic bad Hitchcock movie, and Eve Marie Saint, who despite being less Hitchcock girl all his movies in the '50s, was never more seductive than here, Alfred Hitchcock once again proved that he is a master in the casting, and then replacing some of their concerns at stake, as the false mother guilty or somewhat peculiar, again proved he was the greatest coach in history. Each of his films has a unique touch that gave him both in the staging, as in the soundtrack, the main theme as indicated by where they air the shots, and of course, with Bass credits, which then would be exceeded in Psycho.
2013-06-14
A Real Crowd Pleaser
"North By Northwest" is an exceptionally entertaining spy thriller with something for everyone. Its heady mixture of suspense, romance, humour and intrigue make it a real crowd pleaser and its action sequences are delivered at an exhilarating pace. The wonderful locations chosen for many of the scenes are stunning and add enormously to the visual impact of the whole movie and the original screenplay by Ernest Lehman is sophisticated and witty and contains numerous quotable lines.

This is a movie which undoubtedly appeals to a broader section of the public than any of Alfred Hitchcock's other offerings and also features one of his favourite themes i.e. a man who's falsely accused of something and then finds that his life descends into chaos as a consequence. Its story of mistaken and shifting identities is particularly engaging to audiences as it depicts how an ordinary man copes in a number of extraordinary circumstances and how he manages in a number of very dangerous predicaments from which there often appears to be no way out.

Cary Grant is superb as the suave, fast talking Roger Thornhill who's kidnapped, jailed, framed for murder and made the victim of a number of attempts on his life. His skills are so versatile that he's equally convincing whether he's involved in a dramatic scene, an action sequence, a comic episode or even the type of risqué dialogue that he indulges in with Eva Marie Saint's character.

Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) is an elegant looking woman who makes both Roger and Vandamm (James Mason) very suspicious of her and also on some occasions finds herself in extreme danger. Eva Marie Saint projects Eve's mixture of mystery, humour and vulnerability in precisely the right measure for each situation and in so doing provides a very creditable performance. James Mason is also great as the cultured but utterly ruthless Vandamm who has a marvellous capacity for remaining completely unruffled at all times.

The opening title sequence by Saul Bass is strikingly original and makes a great impact as does the use of the various high profile locations (e.g. the United Nations HQ, the Plaza Hotel in New York, Grand Central Station and Mount Rushmore) which contribute so strongly to making certain parts of the movie so memorable and so enjoyable.
2010-08-21
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