It looks like were set for a Hitchcock revival from now until the new year what with the Blu-ray box set and Antony Hopkins movie due out early 2013. I always think what's the point of commenting on his undoubted genius, Hitchcock fans already know this. But I need to think of the new fans, most likely film students etc.
For them all this will be new and fresh.
With North By Northwest you are seeing a classic of huge proportions. Huge when compared to Hitchcock's other famous works. Hitchcock is often branded a genius due to his ability to keep you on the edge of your seat with very little on screen, some films barely leave a single room, in fact with Rope, Rear Window and Dial M you get just that, one room. So for NBNW to have such epic framing and numerous locales gives it a much different feel to his other films.
This is an undoubted classic. I always liken this movie to a Bond film, yes we have spy stuff but it's more to do with the lead character played faultlessly by the irreplaceable Carey Grant who is on top form with some truly wonderful dialog.
With this type of movie it's all about the timing of the reveals and Hitch is in top form with this most important aspect. The fact that it hasn't been re-made is testament to the fact that you just can't better it.
If I was to pick out one slight flaw it would be the running time, the 2nd act seems to suffer some slight lag and could be trimmed here and there but overall this is a 5/5 bonafide classic.
As for the Blu-ray transfer...............
Warner Brothers have granted this a VC-1 encoded, 1.78:1 framed, 1080p transfer on a 50GB Blu-ray disc of exceptional quality.
Filmed on stock known as Vista Vision which was only utilised by Warner on about six titles as it was deemed too expensive. Well we benefit greatly when it comes to an HD conversion. The restoration is amazing with no speckles, white spots or scratches evident.
The transfer was overseen by the Lowry Digital team which worked on the Bond transfers and I wish that every 50 year old movie was given to them. Amazing.
Some images do appear notably softer than others but the detail in general is staggering. Skin tones appear warm and accurate and fabric detail is surprising strong. The detail within the shadows and darks is brilliant and is most notable in the Mount Rushmore finale.
The films grain structure is extremely fine and unobtrusive with no evidence of any digital enhancements. Compression artifacts and banding are also non-existent. I did not detect any moments of edge enhancement either.
The colour contrast is a huge improvement on previous DVD releases and you will be amazed at how incredible this looks.
Considering it's age this is near to reference quality.
Movie 5/5. Transfer 5/5.