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 to assume the title of Master of Suspense, director Alfred Hitchcock was already a highly regarded filmmaker in his native England. With films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage and The Lady Vanishes, Hitchcock perfected a style that would eventually bring him 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 Hitchcock’s early works. 

Even at this stage of his career, Hitchcock’s trademark style is well on display. For starters, The 39 Steps employs one of the director’s favorite themes; namely the wrongly accused man who has to work to prove his innocence. Then there's the clever little touches Hitchcock adds from time to time to keep us on our toes, like when Smith (Lucie Mannheim) tells Hanney (Robert Donat) to be on the lookout for a spy who’s missing the top of his little finger. Knowing Hitchcock’s penchant for suspense, it’s pretty obvious that this spy will eventually reveal himself to our hero, and most likely at a very inopportune time. 

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. As a result, Alfred Hitchcock became a star in the British Film Industry, an honor he would eventually claim on the other side of the Atlantic as well.

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1 comment:

blackCABproductions said...

A very excellent early Hitchcock! Love it!