39 Steps (1935)
Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll.
time: 86 mins.
director Alfred Hitchcock's first great thriller, The 39 Steps,
looks fabulous in Criterion's lavish remastered edition.
simply doesn't look like a movie made more than 70 years ago
and the engineers have done wonders with the sound, too.
39 Steps tells a familiar Hitchcock story: an innocent man
is on the run trying to prove he really isn't a killer.
It all begins innocently enough for Richard Hannay (Robert
Donat), a Canadian visiting London who takes in a music hall
show one evening. A shot is fired and the audience flees in
panic. On the way out of the theatre, a mysterious woman says
she fired the gun to cause a diversions and she begs Hannay
to escort her to safety as she is being pursued by a dangerous
first he doesn't believe her, but after taking the woman to
his flat, Hannay discovers his place is being watched. During
the night, the woman is murdered.
the spot he's in, Hannay escapes and with police in pursuit
heads for Scotland with some clues the dead woman gave him
- a map with a small town circled, a description of a man
with a missing finger and the phrase "the 39 steps").
exciting chase movie with a great finale, The 39 Steps also
includes Hitchcock's trademark blonde temptress, this one
played by Madeleine Carroll, who ends up handcuffed to Hannay
and facing death at the hands of the gang.
the story sounds familiar it should be: Cary Grant played
much the same part in North By Northwest in 1959, again a
man on the run trying to expose the gang of foreign agents
who've framed him for murder.
are some very poor public domain versions of The 39 Steps
on DVD, featuring picture blemishes and crackling sound -
problems virtually eliminated in the Criterion edition.
DVD includes several extra features, notably a documentary
on Hitchcock's British films before he left for Hollywood