Friday, February 11, 2011

#189. The 39 Steps (1935)

DVD Synopsis: The best known of Hitchcock's British films, this civilized spy yarn follows the escapades of Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), who stumbles into a conspiracy that involves him in a hectic chase across the Scottish moors—a chase in which he is both the pursuer and the pursued. Adapted from John Buchan's novel, this classic Hitchcock "wrong man" thriller encapsulates themes that anticipate the director's biggest American films (especially North by Northwest), and is a standout among his early works.

Years before he came to Hollywood and assumed the title Master of Suspense, director Alfred Hitchcock was already a highly respected filmmaker in his native England. With movies like the original The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage and The Lady Vanishes, Hitchcock perfected a style that would soon bring him plenty of notoriety. Yet no movie from this period was quite as entertaining as 1935's The 39 Steps, considered by many to be the finest of Hitch’s early works. 

Even at this early stage, the great master’s trademark style was well on display. For starters, The 39 Steps employs one of Hitchcock’s favorite themes: the wrongly accused man on the run, who has to work to prove his innocence. Then there are those clever little touches that Hitchcock adds from time to time, to keep us on our toes. When Smith (Lucie Mannheim) tells Hanney (Robert Donat) to be on the lookout for a spy missing the top of his little finger, we know this spy will eventually pop up, and most likely when our hero is least prepared to face him. 

With its thrilling story and breakneck pace, it’s easy to see why The 39 Steps was one of the most successful films of England’s pre-war era. Just after its release, Alfred Hitchcock became something of a star in the British Film Industry. It was a ranking he would eventually claim on the other side of the Atlantic as well.

1 comment:

blackCABproductions said...

A very excellent early Hitchcock! Love it!