Tag Archives: James Mason

North By Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
Written by Ernest Lehman
Starring Cary Grant
Eva Marie Saint
James Mason
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks, ASC
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) July 28, 1959 (US)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Along with Psycho and The Birds, North By Northwest is perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s best known work. Of all of Hitchcock’s films North By Northwest is probably the one that is the most critically acclaimed. It is also the film that contains a couple of the most well-known scenes in all of Hitch’s movies and indeed of all of cinema. While the shower scene from Psycho may be the most famous of Hitchcock’s signature scenes, Cary Grant being chased by the crop duster through the corn field in North By Northwest as well as the backdrop of Mount Rushmore while Grant and Eve Marie Saint battle their would be assassins have both become just as iconic in their own right.

In this exciting movie Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a nobody advertising executive who is mistaken for fictious spy George Kaplan. He is initially kidnapped by a couple of thugs who believe he is the spy Kaplan and who try to murder him. Once he escapes a cat and mouse adventure begins, with Thornhill being chased across the United States as he searches in vain for Kaplan. The film is just thrilling in every sense, with this being one of Grant’s best films. Bernard Herrmann’s score is once again brilliant and matches the excitement of each scene.  In my opinion this is simply a great film that everyone should see once in their lifetime.

* Early in the film watch for a cameo by Ed Platt as Thornhill’s lawyer. A few years later Platt went on to play the Chief in Get Smart, my favourite TV show of all time!!!

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Directed by Richard Fleischer

Produced by Walt Disney

Written by Jules Verne (novel) & Earl Felton (screenplay)

Starring Kirk Douglas
James Mason
Paul Lukas
Peter Lorre

Cinematography Franz Planer

Editing by Elmo Williams

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures

Release date(s) December 23, 1954

Running time 127 min.

When one thinks about Walt Disney they usually picture Mickey Mouse, Snow White or perhaps Jimminy Cricket. Disney and animation are two words that are synonymous, so it’s understandable that the live action films that he made aren’t as well-known as his cartoons. That’s a shame because many of them are very good. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea from 1954 would have to be one of my favourite Disney live action films.

Though 20,000 Leagues Under the see features a fine cast it is James Mason who dominates the screen as the iconic Captain Nemo. Even alongside stars of the quality of Peter Lorre and Kirk Douglas it is Mason whose performance becomes indelibly etched in the viewer’s mind. This is simply his film and he is always excellent as Captain Nemo, especially when he shows the mental anguish that Nemo goes through when he seeks his vengeance on mankind and those who imprisoned him and tortured his wife and child on the prison island of Rura Penthe. He does not relish having to commit murder until the deed is done, and this shines through with Mason’s performance.

The same cannot be said for Kirk Douglas, who is hamstrung with a truly annoying character. Usually Douglas is a fine, dependable actor, but here he is burdened with some really clichéd seafaring jargon and typically Disney-esque happy-go-lucky attitude that becomes grating after about twenty minutes. It is only when he briefly shows his frustration at being Nemo’s prisoner that he gets to show any substance with his performance. This is not Kirk’s fault, as his Ned Land character was brought in to counter-balance the mood of the film opposite Mason’s tortured soul in Nemo. As this is a Disney film, and their primary target audience has always been families, they needed a goofy, lighthearted family friendly hero.

Another thing I should mention here is the special effects which were considered to be awesome back in 1954. They still hold up well today, especially the underwater photography and shots of the Nautilus streaking through the water. Less successful is the fight with the giant squid, which to 21st century eyes looks a little bit lame. Still if you can overlook that it is quite menacing and the fight is quite well staged.

Overall I think that 20,000 League Under The Sea is a terrific movie suitable for all ages. This is not only Disney’s finest live-action film but one of the best adventure movies of the 1950s, one which still stands up well today over 55 years since it was first released.

* This movie was not released in Australia until 22 December 1955, 364 days after Americans first got the opportunity to see it.