The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 4 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 16
  • Discs: 6
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 05/13/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

Season Four of U.N.C.L.E. is known for it’s more serious tone and boy, is it!

“The shift in tone under new producer Anthony Spinner was abrupt – from a silly kid-friendly series to a much darker, adult-oriented adventure show that clearly belonged in a later time slot. The season opened with three especially grim episodes: “The Summit Five Affair”, in which Solo is accused of being a double agent on the eve of a high-level meeting of U.N.C.L.E.’s top executives; “The Test Tube Killer Affair,” about Thrush-created superhuman … being chased from Mexico to Greece; and “The ‘J’ for Judas Affair” one of the few U.N.C.L.E. episodes to acknowledge the military-industrial complex that was of growing concern to American youth as the Vietnam War became increasingly unpopular.” (Jon Burlingame, introductory liner notes to Season 4, included with the season set).

Burlingame is right, though he doesn’t quite hit all the details. In “Summit Five”  Napoleon’s in Berlin (at UNCLE’s HQ there) when it’s attacked – it becomes obvious that one of three people who were there during the attack is a double agent. Napoleon is then TORTURED (at one point, Illya coldly looks on while the Berlin chief of Operations tries to break Solo) by UNCLE to confess he’s a double agent, in the pay of Thrush. Solo then breaks, crying out that he wants to see Illya. He’s put in a cell with audio surveillance, but no video; and at this point, we find out Solo’s “confession” is an act (as was Illya’s coordination of the torture), and it’s the Berlin chief of ops who is under suspicion. The plot takes a few more nicely played twists and turns, which I won’t spoil. But still, Solo tortured by UNCLE??? Now, that’s grim. Similarly, Thrush’s plan to create unfeeling supermen in “The Test Tube Killer Affair” touches on Nazi-style Eugenics, and is as Burlingame mentioned is quite dark. Then there’s “The ‘J’ is for Judas Affair” a confusing tale (sorry) of a rich military-industrial magnet and his estranged sons. The story includes one son killing the father to get the family business, and ultimate fratricide between the two competing sons. Illya and Napoleon, while trying to figure out the mess, end-up looking on in horror. (The last shot of the episode, rather than a light scene between the two agents or between the agents and Waverly is a close-up of the babe du jour/Thrush badette dead in a car crash).

Other Season 4 episodes have similar moments of darkness, in “The Thrush Roulette Affair”, Illya is temporarily brainwashed into killing Napoleon. In “The Gurnius Affair”, while under deep cover, Illya tortures and “kills” Napoleon (much to the horror of babe-of-the-week Judy Carne). In “The Maze Affair” (an episode oddly framed from a Thrush pov), Illya witnesses and reports to Waverly, “Napoleon Solo is dead, sir.” When Waverly questions this, Illya adds, “I saw it myself, sir.” ‘Course Solo isn’t dead, and he’s pitted against time to stop Illya from carrying a supposed Thrush disintegrator gun (really a b*mb) into UNCLE HQ. “Deadly Quest Affair”, or UNCLE does “The Most Dangerous Game” has Darren McGavin as the bad guy and chasing Napoleon with intent to kill, while Napoleon tries to find Illya who’s been kidnapped and McGavin’s character threatens to kill.

So, dark stuff indeed. It’s interesting to speculate what would have happened if UNCLE had remained on the air just a tad longer, especially following the darker format. But, alas, the show was canceled mid-season (thus only 16 episodes were made).

Overall, though I like all of UNCLE, I must say, I really like the first and last (#4) seasons the best. But, season 2 has it’s moments, and even in the “dreaded” third season, there are a few good episodes and good moments. Overall, it’s a brilliant series that is tightly written, clever, intelligent yet fun (most of the time), and starring two really good and really cute young actors, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. The show also had a brilliant number of incredible guest stars, something highlighted in the special features (each season set includes a featurette on UNCLE VIPs or famous guest stars). The show also made great use of the MGM backlots and various left-over sets from various MGM movies.  Which was something I found that actually kinda’ dates the show and adds to the “cheese” factor sometimes associated with UNCLE in more general TV histories/info. books.) On the one hand, lavish sets left over from various MGM movies allowed UNCLE to do plots and have a look it wouldn’t have had otherwise. On the other, though, constantly being on the lots gave the show a slightly “stagey” look and it never had the immediacy of NBC’s other spy series, I Spy, which filmed abroad with the help of NBC News. But considering how depressing I Spy was, UNCLE’s considerably more fun!

Overall, I highly, highly recommend the show but for watching and to keep in one’s DVD library.

General series review (e.g. packaging, special features, etc.) to come.

Read my review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 1.

Read my review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 2.

Read my review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 3.

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 3 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 30
  • Discs: 11
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 05/05/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

Finally finished off Season 3! (Hey, my life has been busy lately!) Okay, Season 3 of UNCLE, it’s no surprise is not a favorite of fans because of the campiness/silliness. It’s time to re-evaluate Season 3 because it’s not all bad (mind you, at times it’s not all good, but anyway). Yes, Season 3, gets into more fantastic episodes, especially the first couple (“The Sort-of-Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair”, “The Super-Colossal Affair”) are incredibly fantastical. Tho’ “..Do It Yourself Dreadful” is a Harlan Ellison script so it has a snarky fun-ness to it (Ellison was a writer-for-hire at the time and also wrote Classic Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever” which is often listed as the best Classic Trek ep.) Ellison also wrote the UNCLE Third Season episode “Pieces of Fate Afr” which is great fun. But, there are plenty of Third Season episodes, which are no more fantastical than season 2 (One of which is “Pieces of Fate” – in which a Midwestern School Teacher writes a b*mbshell book about a secret spy organization — which just happens to resemble quote “real” unquote UNCLE and Thrush operations. Napoleon and Illya are assigned to find out where she got her information for the book, but when they reach her at a publicity event someone tries to shoot her – and although she’s physically fine she’s conveniently lost her memory. So the episode involves the two trying to piece together the woman’s life to figure out her past to find out how her fictional book could resemble “real” events. It’s a great episode, which I won’t spoil, but it’s also full of Ellison’s typical twists and turns and snarky writing.)

Another episode I really liked was the 2-part “The Concrete Overcoat Affair”. The ep. has everything — Napoleon barely avoiding a shotgun wedding to a young Italian girl (he’s caught in her bedroom, though he’s actually completely innocent for once). The girl’s mother and mafioso’s Uncles (yes, I said uncles!) chase after Solo to get him to marry the girl. Meanwhile, Illya and Napoleon are on an assignment to stop Thrush from changing the gulf stream and thus (a) warming Greenland turning it into Thrushland (b) melting the polar caps and flooding coastal cities, and (c) freezing northern Europe, esp. England, Ireland, parts of France, etc. Which, incidentally, is now all stuff that any scientific journal will tell you will be a result of Global Warming, but, I digress. So there’s the typical running around, finding clues, getting captured, escaping, etc. But what makes it fun is that while Solo and Kuryakin are doing all that typical stuff, you have these three older character actors playing old-time mobsters chasing them in order to get Solo to “marry the girl” as the saying goes – and all of them were in any number of old Warner Brothers gangster films. The other aspect of the episode, and a reason I’m sure most UNCLE fans consider it a favorite is that wonderful scene between Napoleon and Waverly. Napoleon and Illya get separated, and Napoleon ends-up back at UNCLE HQ, and he’s talking to Waverly and asking to go after Illya who’s been captured by Thrush. Waverly tells him flat out, no. Waverly explains UNCLE’s going to b*mb Thrush’s island back to the stone age. Napoleon then makes a really good, grand speech, saying first, “OK, fine, Illya’s expendable, so are the rest of us. But what about the girl, she’s innocent, are you going to let her die too?” Which cracks Waverly’s tough exterior and Napoleon is allowed to go rescue Illya and the girl, provided he do it and get out before UNCLE planes get to the island. The whole sequence on the Island is fantastic, I mean, in a good sense. It’s really well done. “Concrete Overcoat Afr” is the only two-parter I’ve seen so far that I really liked; the other ones are incredibly slow moving.

However, there are some negatives to Season 3 as well. First, although there are some good episodes (“Concrete Overcoat Afr”, “Pieces of Fate Afr”, “The Suburban Afr”, “Hot Number Afr”, “Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum Afr”, etc), there are also some really, really bad episodes (“The Abominable Snowman Affair”, “The My Friend the Gorilla Afr”, “The Jingle Bells Afr”, “The Apple a Day Afr”). Another problem was that even in the mediocre or average episodes (which most of the Third Season is), had a tendency to make Illya and Napoleon at times look almost incompetent – all the captures, missing clues right under their noses, etc., just really works against the characters. After all, Illya and Napoleon are supposed to be UNCLE’s crack enforcement agents.

Finally, special features. There is a special treat for fans on the S 3 special features disk. The modern-day interview with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. There’s so much warmth to it! And, you can just see the two are still friends. It is one of those cut & paste interviews, with the questions on a place card, then the filmed interview of the two of them – but it’s fun to watch anyway. The interview is also quite long, it is over an hour in length. There’s a few basic, probably been asked a hundred times questions at the front of the interview, but there are some very insightful questions as well. Definitely watch it!

Read my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 1 Review.

Read my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 2 Review.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 2 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 30
  • Discs: 11
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 04/01/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

The second season of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is probably the most UNCLE-ish or proto-typical of UNCLE’s four seasons. The plots are more fantastical than the more serious first season, but not as silly as season 3 (review forthcoming once I get a chance to watch the entire thing and re-evaluate it). Illya’s been “promoted” to number 2 of Section 2 (Operations and Enforcement) and full partner status with Napoleon, though there are still episodes where one or the other agent is heavily featured and their partner is hardly there. Season 2 also contained “The Moonglow Affair” which introduced Agents April Dancer and Mark Slate, who would be re-cast (to Stephanie Powers and Noel Harrison) and spin-off to the short-lived series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. – both Napoleon and Illya are taken out at the beginning of the episode by a radioactive gas, and April gets to strut her stuff finding the cure for our two agents and stopping yet another Thrush plot. Despite the lack of Napoleon and Illya, the episode isn’t actually that bad, especially as Normal Fell plays Mark Slate.

During Season 2 of U.N.C.L.E., Thrush becomes THE villain of the show – most episodes involve stopping Thrush’s plots in some way or another. Also, just as in the first season (well, all of UNCLE actually), Napoleon or Illya often gets captured and his partner needs to rescue him, and occasionally both agents are captured and need to figure out a grand escape. Also, in season 2, though we normally see both Illya and Napoleon, there are episodes where the two agents are separated, working on a case from different angles, such as “The Bridge of Lions Affair” (2 parts) where Illya’s in London Soho and Napoleon is in Italy (or France, I forget).

The move to color brings more life to the series (yes, those were the days of Technicolor), with brilliantly lit sets, and colorful backgrounds. However, as I said in my Season 1 review, because of the sheer size of the new color cameras (and the requirement of using dollies to move the camera around) the direction took a turn to the extremely static. Also, black and white, by its very nature, gave the series a more serious tone, while the color just makes things look bright and fun.

The partnership and friendship between Illya and Napoleon are more developed, though, and they work together more often, though not in every single episode, as I said earlier in this review.

Also, in both season 1 and 2, there are plenty of shots of both men that are just really, really nice to look at (after all both Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are incredibly good-looking men, especially back then. And, actually both have aged well, and Vaughn, especially is extremely good-looking now).

Read my The Man from UNCLE Season 1 Review.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 1 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 29
  • Discs: 11
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 04/01/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

I finally got the money together to order The Complete Man from UNCLE and The Complete Get Smart from Time-Life (and received them). Now, with five seasons of Get Smart and four of The Man from UNCLE, it’s going to take me a while to watch everything, not to mention writing reviews, but I aim to get everything posted in the next couple of months (yes, I said months – I gotta’ work for a living!).

The Man from UNCLE is one of two series that established media fandom (the other is the obvious original Star Trek). Like Trek, UNCLE fans have produced fanzines (and still do, as well as online fan fiction), established conventions or fannish get-togethers, and just created fandom as a creative and positive place to be. One can even argue since UNCLE was incredibly popular from the very beginning, and the second season debuted at number 1 in the Neilson ratings (and never left the top ten for that season), UNCLE fandom preceded and eclipsed Trek fandom. Personally, I wouldn’t quite go that far, but I’ve seen the argument that UNCLE was really the first (and biggest) female-centered media fandom.

Briefly, in case you don’t know, U.N.C.L.E, the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement is an international organization devoted to peace, order and good government (no, sorry, that’s Canada. Sorry that’s a joke – god, I don’t think I should have had wine tonight). Well, UNCLE is devoted to peace and order anyway. They basically step in to combat criminal activity. Often they are combating Thrush – an international organization of evil. Napoleon Solo (played brilliantly by Robert Vaughn) is the American number 1 of section 2 based in New York. Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum – who’s also brilliant) is Solo’s Russian partner. Alexander Waverly sends Napoleon and Illya on their missions – he’s UNCLE’s version of James Bond’s M or Austin Power’s Basil Exposition. And yes, UNCLE is the type of spy series that Austin Powers is satirizing.

Another thing to remember about UNCLE is that, like SeaQuest DSV, each season of the series had a different flavor. (It’s like Linux, we have flavors! Sorry, computer geek joke!) Anyway, each season had its own distinct flavor, though the seasons weren’t quite so different as Sea Quest (season 3 of SeaQuest is practically a different show entirely).

Here’s the basic breakdown:

Season 1 – filmed entirely in black and white, much more serious than later seasons, more intrigue/less camp, established the basic “look and feel” of the series (the Innocent, Napoleon and Illya’s partnership, Waverly playing the M/Basil Exposition role).

Season 2 – Probably the most UNCLE season of all. Details to follow when I watch all of it and post a review.

Season 3 – The campest UNCLE, but still fun and adventurous (details to follow when I watch all of it and post a review.

Season 4 – A return to serious UNCLE. I actually don’t think I’ve seen much of it. Also, only a half-season. (details to follow when I watch all of it and post a review.

Watching Season 1 – I really enjoyed it. Filming in black and white adds to the seriousness of the first season stories. Also, the writing has a much more serious tone than the campy/silly season 3.

The other thing about season 1, is that occasionally there are some absolutely brilliant directing, and fantastic shots. Some of the episodes actually remind me of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, not in content or story type but in shots and direction. Later, of course, with the switch to color, everything has a flat “locked-off” look (the same happened in early Technicolor films – the jewel tones look gorgeous but directing suffered because you can’t move a 1-foot square camera! – Yes, 1-2 foot – the early Technicolor film cameras were huge, mostly because they held four rolls of film, synced together.)

Anyway, there are some truly lovely shots in season 1 UNCLE – looking thru’ a glass table from the bottom for instance, and outdoor scenes with a sense of unreality to them.

The only bad thing about season 1 is “not enough Illya”. Illya is definitely a secondary character, especially in the early episodes of the season. As the season moves on, you do see more of him, but he and Solo tend to be separated. UNCLE works best when Napoleon and Illya are working together as unlikely but excellent partners and friends. Illya does get to be the lead agent in “The Bow Wow Affair” (which, unfortunately, is not a great episode), and “The Odd Man Affair”, because Napoleon gets shot half-way through the episode, and Illya takes over the mission (course, it’s the ubiquitous shoulder wound, and he’s fine at the end of the episode, except for a sling on his arm).

Oh, and I most emphatically don’t dislike Vaughn/Napoleon – Vaughn’s excellent (watch his expression in “The Love Affair” when he knows Illya’s been hurt or killed by a hand grenade for example, or his rolling his eyes at Illya in the beginning of “The Girl from Navarone Affair”). Anyways, I’ve always liked Vaughn, and he’s at his young, spry, and suave best in UNCLE. It’s just there’s something about Illya. Well, McCallum actually – who’s magnetic on the screen (I also love him opposite Joanna Lumley in Sapphire and Steel), and he’s also done several brill episodes of both the original and the remake of The Outer Limits.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first season of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wouldn’t say it’s the best season, but only because I like David McCallum, and miss Illya when he’s not in an episode.

Suspicion

  • Title: Suspicion
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Studio: RKO Radio Pictures
  • Date: 1941
  • Genre: Mystery, Film Noir, Drama
  • Cast: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Leo G. Carroll, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce
  • Format: B/W, Standard
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“I’m honest because with you I think it’s the best way to get results.” — Johnnie

“Monkey-face, I’ve been broke all my life!” — Johnnie

Suspicion starts like any light romantic comedy. Johnnie (Cary Grant) meets Lina on a train and tries to pick her up, but she’s unimpressed. They run into each other again at a fox hunt. He talks her for a walk on a Sunday and makes a date for later that afternoon. Lina announces this to her parents, but he breaks their date for that afternoon, and for a week, Lina is miserable because she hasn’t seen him in so long. However, he returns just in time for the hunt ball. Very soon after, Lina sneaks out of her parents’ house and the two are married at the registry office. The two go on a whirlwind European honeymoon, then return to a new house – where Lina discovers that Johnnie has no money.

Suddenly, instead of a light romance, the film resembles Gaslight. Over and over, Lina picks up on her husband acting weirdly, or suspiciously. But she has no proof, no idea what’s really going on, and every time Johnnie’s money troubles seem to catch up with him, he suddenly comes up with the money he needs (such as a £2000 pound windfall that Johnnie claims he got from the track). Lina notices her husband is fascinated with detective and murder stories… but at first, thinks nothing of it. But when Johnnie’s dear friend, Beaky, dies under mysterious circumstances, Lina goes to their mutual friend Isobel, a mystery writer. Isobel talks about her recent mystery, where a man causes another man to walk over a weakened footbridge and fall to his death. Isobel says that morally it’s murder if the first man knew the bridge was weak. She then casually says “It’s the same with Johnnie’s friend, Beaky.” Beaky had died after drinking a large amount of brandy in a drinking contest – despite his allergy to brandy. Lina freaks at this because she knows that Johnnie knows about Beaky’s allergy and that Beaky would sometimes still drink brandy even though it caused him to have fits, and trouble breathing. Later, Isobel, her husband, Lina, Johnny, and a strange blond woman dressed as a man have a dinner party. Johnnie’s dinner conversation though not only focuses on murder but on untraceable poisons. Lina’s so freaked she won’t let him into her bedroom that night.

Things finally come to a head when Lina decides to go home to spend a few days with her mother. Johnnie insists on driving her. On a winding road, Lina thinks he’s trying to kill her, but he pulls her back into the car, then yells at her. When they talk, Lina comes to the conclusion that Johnnie was considering suicide as a way out of his money problems, and for her to get his insurance money to settle his debts for once and for all. Lina throws herself into his arms, and they drive back towards their house.

In Gaslight, Ingrid Bergman gradually comes to realize that her husband is a criminal who only married her to have access to the empty house next to hers, where he thinks there’s a treasure. The husband manipulates his wife, trying to make her think she’s going insane – and she’s only saved at the last minute by a kind policeman.

Suspicion is much more unsettling. Cary Grant is very menacing – and switches from his “happy go lucky”, “everything is fine” personality to someone who is truly scary like lightning. He clearly seems to not only not want to work, but to only have a talent for losing money – and he routinely borrows money to pay off his most insistent debtors. Yet, at the same time, Joan Fontaine’s Lina seems almost paranoid. We see her getting little pieces of evidence that her husband’s up to no good, such as when she goes to visit him at his office and learns from his employer and a family friend (played brilliantly by Leo G. Carroll) that Johnnie was fired weeks ago after £2000 went missing from the business. But each time she finds something out, he has an explanation and she forgives him and realizes that she loves him.

What makes the film brilliant is that because of Grant’s superb acting, and the way he flips back-and-forth between menace and light-hearted kindness, one is never sure of his motives. Does he want to kill his wife for her money? It doesn’t appear so, he never actually does anything to her. Yet, at the same time, he’s almost slimy in the way that he always has an answer for everything. At times, Lina seems very alone, but at others, she has no problem going out – she visits Isobel with no problems, and sees other friends who seem jealous of her relationship with Johnnie. Suspicion is a masterful, and short (only 99 minutes) film with no concrete endings. I highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Swing Time

North by Northwest

  • Title:  North by Northwest
  • Director:  Alfred Hitchcock
  • Date:  1959
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Suspense
  • Cast:  Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Leo G. Carroll, Edward Platt, Martin Landau
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Hello? Hello, Mother? This is your son, Roger Thornhill…”  — Roger (Cary Grant)

“Apparently, the poor sucker got mistaken for George Kaplan.” — Anonymous Spy 1
“How’d he get mistaken for George Kaplan, when George Kaplan doesn’t even exist?” — Anonymous Spy 2

North by Northwest is a very fun, enjoyable, romantic (in both senses) and exciting Hitchcock film. The film’s entire plot rests on a case of mistaken identity. Grant is Roger Thornhill, an Madison Ave (NY) advertising executive, who is meeting some friends and business associates in a hotel bar, when he realizes he needs to send a telegram. He raises his hand to call over the hotel telegram boy just as the telegram boy is calling out for George Kaplan. This is observed by two foreign agents, and thus the snowball starts to roll downhill. The agents assume Thornhill is Kaplan, and kidnap him, taking him to a house in the country. There, he is questioned, and forced to drink a bottle of bourbon. They then pour Thornhill into a car, hoping he will have a nasty accident. Thornhill, however, is somewhat familiar with drunk driving, and he’s able to make his escape, though he is spotted by the police and arrested for drunk driving.

The next morning, Thornhill and his lawyer, played by Edward Platt, attempt to explain what happened. Of course, there is no evidence at the country estate that anything happened, and the hostess who answers the door puts on a performance, claiming she was worried after he’d gotten tipsy at a dinner party. Thornhill pays his $2.00 fine.

Thornhill then returns to New York, searches Kaplan’s hotel room and goes to the United Nations building to meet Townsend, the man who kidnapped him the previous night, he thinks. But the man he meets isn’t the Townsend (James Mason) who kidnapped him. Before he can get any answers, or straighten out the mess, Townsend is killed by a thrown knife. Thornhill, like an idiot, picks up the knife — and his picture is snapped as he does so. With no other choice, he goes on the lam, sneaking aboard a train bound for Chicago, because that was where Kaplan was scheduled to go.

Meanwhile, we meet “The Professor” (Leo G. Carroll) and his merry band of spies. They discuss the issue of Thornhill, and their fake agent “Kaplan”, as well as their real agent who will be in danger, if they step in and clear Thornhill. “The Professor” declares they must do nothing.

On the Chicago-bound train, Thornhill meets Eve Kendall, who hides him. Grant and Kendall immediately have a connection, trading flirty dialogue. In Chicago, Kendall arranges for Grant to meet Kaplan; but we also see her talking to Leonard (Martin Landau), Townsend’s chief henchman, on the phone. Kendall’s directions lead Thornhill to a dry, dusty, deserted road in the middle of a cornfield. He’s attacked by a crop duster.

Thornhill survives that, confronts Kendall, and Grant’s performance is excellent. He’s very icy and cold when he confronts her — subtlely seething with anger that she betrayed him. He then follows her to an auction. Townsend (Mason), his henchmen, and “The Professor” as well as Kendall are all there. When it looks like he’s going to be caught by Townend’s goons, Grant makes a scene at the auction and gets himself arrested. But he’s released and taken to the airport by Carroll. “The Professor” explains more of the plot, before taking him, by plane, to South Dakota.

There, by the Mt. Rushmore monument, the film winds down to it’s conclusion.

Hitchcock uses a lot of very high angle shots in North by Northwest, almost like a kid with a new toy, but it does work. Grant is fantastic as the confused innocent. Eva Marie Saint plays Kendall with icy maturity, even in her more romantic scenes with Grant. The supporting cast is great. Leo G. Carroll, of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. plays a very Mr. Waverly-like character as the un-named head of some un-named security organization. In fact, the entire film almost seems like a pilot for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. at times, but with a much bigger budget. Martin Landau is menacing, and quiet, as Leonard, James Mason’s henchman. And James Mason himself has a cold, sophisticated, frightening evilness about him. Edward Platt, of TV’s Get Smart, as a brief but fun role as Thornhill’s overworked lawyer. Overall, the film is great fun. The bi-wing crop duster chasing Grant in the cornfield, and the climatic chase across the face of Mt. Rushmore are famous movie scenes, that are also quite enjoyable to see intact and in context.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Notorious