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The 39 Steps (The Criterion Collection)

292 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

Special Features

  • Gorgeous new digital transfer, with restored picture and sound
  • The complete 1937 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation performed by Robert Montgomery and Ida Lupino
  • The Art of Film: Vintage Hitchcock, the complete Janus Films documentary detailing the director's British period
  • Excerpts from the original 1935 press book
  • Original production design drawings

Product Details

  • Actors: Peggy Ashcroft, Ivor Barnard, Wilfrid Brambell, Madeleine Carroll, Frank Cellier
  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Special Edition, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 2, 1999
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (292 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780021967
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,242 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The 39 Steps (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 157 people found the following review helpful By PonyExpress on June 10, 2004
Format: DVD
I just ordered the Criterion Hitchcock "set" which includes "The 39 Steps", a movie I've watched many times over the last 20 years, but NEVER in a form this crisp and well-transfered; it's been restored beautifully, and as with all the films("My Man Godfrey" and "The Lady Vanishes", to name two)that have been kicking around with duped, grainy, fuzzy prints for the last 60-some years that were FINALLY restored-it's almost like watching a new movie-even if you'd thought you'd memorized all the dialogue and action! There's just so much that's missed in a bad print. Here, we have Hitch at his finest....there just isn't a dull second in this film. It's really as sure-fire as any movie ever made, in terms of entertainment. I believe this too was Hitchcock's first huge breakout international hit, although happily for us, he didn't "go Hollywood" for another 3 years or so(and gave us the later "Lady Vanishes"-another Criterion must-have).
One caveat: if you're like me(hopeless film buff), you often get these Criterions for not only the fantastic quality of the print but for the often illuminating audio tracks, usually provided by experts of one type or another; I've never quibbled with any of them before, but I have to say, don't expect Marion Keane's wall-to-wall droning to be worth it. There's generally two kinds of film "discussion"(not counting the sort where the actual director or actors gab, which we get with new films): the sort that's superb, like Rudy Behlmer's on "Adventures of Robin Hood"-an amalgam of film history, film technique, on-the-fly biographies of the actors you're watching, tidbits about the production locations, etc.etc.-nd then there's the OTHER kind:
film "semiotics".
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 11, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
I won't argue the merits of DVD or recount the plot--but I do want to say this is a practically perfect film; it has it all: humor, suspense, romance, action, intrigue. I think it is Hitch's best British film, with the "The Lady Vanishes" coming in second. All of the actors are great, the script is fantastic, and Hitch's direction is unparelleled: the way he moves the camera, uses cuts, and frames the shots. This is such a fun and well-made film I almost hate seeing some of his later Hollywood movies which may have featured superstars like Bergman and Grant, but were made under the constrictive thumb of either Selznick or Hollywood moral conventions. "The 39 Steps" is a flat out wonderful movie, and Hitchcock was an absolute master.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Paul Anthony Hagl on August 18, 2002
Format: DVD
Five stars in all might make me sound like an easy-to-please viewer, but I don't see how this DVD could be better. Criterion never disappoints, so if you're buying this film it's worth paying extra for this one. I believe the transfer is way superior and the extras go on longer than an awards night.
The documentary focuses on Hitchcock's British films, which aren't as widely seen these days and also a complete radio broadcast from 1937. Talk about diggin' up some material! I also enjoyed the commentary and that press book stuff. I'm not even sure I've seen it all. Actually, I'm still not sure what The 39 Steps really is exactly, but who cares? I pity people who don't watch certain movies because they're old and black & white. The reason people should see this film is because no one can make a film like this anymore. This is a great film, don't miss it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "scotsladdie" on November 20, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Many critics and viewers alike feel that this is one of Hitchcocks' finest films: viewer response to the film today is often as enthusiastic as when it was first released. One of the directors' favourite themes is used here: the innocent caught in bizarre circumstances that he or she doesn't understand. Particularly effective in the film are rapid changes of situation and Hitchcock's obvious contention that nothing is sacred, especially if a location or situation can be used to demonstrate the cleverness of his protagonist. There is a funny scene with Donat and Carroll, handcuffed together, pretending to be newlyweds "forced" to spend the night together. Visually, the film enabled Hitchcock to transfer some silent film techniques most effectively: the silent dialogue between Donat and the farmer's kind wife as seen through the window of the farmer's cottage is memorable as is the wind blowing curtains at a window on a stormy London night. There was no doubt that Hitchcock was a genius; he was the real star of the film; two modern remakes pale in comparison to this original gem from 1935.
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Format: Blu-ray
We are a culture that often doesn't value the past which is tragic because there's a treasure trove of great films and literature that wasn't made or written last week. Hitchcock's classic 1935 thriller "The 39 Steps" still remains the definitive film of John Buchan's novel (although it might not always be the most faithful)but, more importantly, it introduces the themes that occupied Hitchcock throughout most of the rest of his film career--an innocent man wrongly accused, the use of a MacGuffin (something important to the characters that pushes the plot forward but truly doesn't matter to us)among other elements that Hitchcock returned to throughout his career. "The 39 Steps" provides a template for many other Hitchcock's later thrillers. Unlike a lot of thrillers from the same time frame, "The 39 Steps" holds up remarkably well.

A breezy thriller "The 39 Steps" focuses on Robert Hannay (Robert Donat)who finds himself wrongly accused of the murder of a woman who has information on a group of spies in England. Hannay goes on the run and finds himself handcuffed to Pamela (Madeleine Carroll)as he tries to elude a murderous spy missing the tip of his finger.

Pay attention to the sequence where Hitchcock creates a bold sequence which follows stars Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll as they are being "escorted" to the bad guy as it pulls back from a studio shot IN the car and moves around to the back of the car as it's driven down a country road shot on location all without an apparent edit (for 1935 it's a truly daring and revolutionary shot and quite breathtaking especially in an early film like this. He would use the same technique for a long tracking shot in "Frenzy" 37 years later).
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