The 39 Steps
(1935)

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I decided to stay

 


Director:               Alfred Hitchcock
Writing credits:    John Buchan (novel)
                               Charles Bennett (adaptation)

Produced:             Michael Balcon
                               Ivor Montagu

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An absolute classic which has been remade a couple of times – only really to show how good the original was. Alfred Hitchcock had received a contract to create spy thriller and this he did and then some… This film was the marker which established his reputation as the master of suspense, something which remained unchallenged throughout the remainder of his career.
There are also several Hitchcock hallmarks that would recur in his later films - the innocent man being suddenly catapulted by accident into the sinister world of spies and secret agents is very much like his later ‘North By Northwest’. There's a train journey as there are in many Hitchcock films, and of course, the icy, mysterious blonde, in this case the excellent Madeleine Carroll. The director cites this as one of his favourite films of all time – it contains all the requiste elements – pace, noir and at times black humour.


The film is in essence a spy story, with an innocent man Richard Hannay accused of murder right from the outset. At one point of the movie he is handcuffed to a beautiful girl but this gives the film its extra sexual edge and also Hitchcock the territory to exploit desperate situations for humour. Note should be taken of the risqué ‘stockings scene’ if I can call it that. Carroll removes her stockings whilst she is still handcuffed to Donat in a bedroom – by today’s standards I’m sure it’s laughable but not in 1935.

There are two criticisms commonly made of this film. The first is that there are logical imperfections in the story. This is true of almost all Hitchcock films (as well as those of most other directors). The second criticism is that this film, whilst based on John Buchan's novel of the same name, departs very considerably from the story in the book. Few films very closely follow the original book – simply because they are different mediums.


 

 

 

 

 

 

                          

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the 39 steps