BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY North by Northwest★★★★★ 10.00pm-12.10am BBC4
A classic Hitchcock thriller, memorable for the crop-dusting scene and a train entering a tunnel to suggest serious bonking going on aboard. Cary Grant is the New York advertising executive kidnapped by German spies, who believe erroneously that he is an undercover agent. Worse, having escaped from captivity, he is then framed for murder. The smooth, dangerous Nazi master spy is James Mason and the necessary romantic interest for Grant is provided by a somewhat mysterious Eva Marie Saint. The film thrillingly follows Grant’s desperate attempts to evade his pursuers, including the crop-dusting sequence where he is nearly killed, and climaxes – another famous scene this – with a life or death chase all over Mount Rushmore. Great stuff, beautifully made.
This second outing for the dashing archaeologist is generally more beloved of children than adults, despite being the darkest of the series. Maybe it’s because Indy picks up a mouthy young companion on his way to rescuing magical stones for an Indian village. The set pieces are, if anything, a step up from Raiders, and the pace rarely flags, but screaming heroine (Kate Capshaw, also known as Mrs Spielberg) is a tough ask for any age group.
The 1938 novella Who Goes There? by influential writer and editor John W Campbell Jr (writing as Don A Stuart) was the source for this atmospheric sci-fi tale from Christian Nyby. The tale of a bloodthirsty indestructible alien let loose in the arctic wastes, it opened the door for a wave of Hollywood Cold War stories, and inspired John Carpenter’s more shocking 1982 movie The Thing. Kenneth Tobey plays the US airman who has over-curious scientists to combat, as well as the self-replicating alien plant form.
Michael Shannon has described himself as ‘in touch with the uneasy part of myself’, which is possibly why he is perfect here for the part of real-life New Jersey hitman Richard Kuklinski, whose nickname and modus operandi were closely linked. Shannon’s quiet maniac not only knocks Ray Liotta’s mafia boss for six, but also weaves a safety blanket of ignorance, shielding his family from his blood-soaked career.
Elizabeth Montgomery is the main reason to watch this true-crime tale, almost 20 years after she broke her apple-pie Bewitched mould in the similar The Legend of Lizzie Boulden, and only two years before her untimely death from cancer at the age of 62. She is wonderfully haunted as Blanche Taylor Moore, abused child and man-hating adult, who came to the attention of the police when her hospitalised partner was found to have 20 times the lethal dose of arsenic in his system.