The 39 Steps (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The Criterion Collection
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The 39 Steps is a heart-racing spy story by Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), following Richard Hannay (Oscar winner Robert Donat of Goodbye, Mr. Chips), who stumbles into a conspiracy that thrusts him into a hectic chase across the Scottish moors—a chase in which he is both the pursuer and the pursued—as well as into an expected romance with the cool Pamela (Madeline Carroll). Adapted from a novel by John Buchan, this classic wrong-man thriller from the Master of Suspense anticipates the director’s most famous works (especially North by Northwest), and remains one of his cleverest and most entertaining films.
Top customer reviews
The two plot lines are well described by Robert Towne, the screen writer of "Chinatown":" most ‘pure’ movie thrillers, especially when you think of Hitchcock, are either fantasies fulfilled or anxieties purged." In this marvelous movie, Hitchcock combines both. (Compare this movie and Hitchcock's remake "North by Northwest" with "Psycho", a straight anxiety purged plot line.)
In any event, I'll probably rent the Criterion version just to compare the two; in the meantime, I'll take a star off for the technical issues that have survived in this version.
Robert C. Ross
The film comes to American shores as the Cary Grant / Hitch classic, "North by Northwest." And "The 39 Steps" is the sole film in a world of fakes that Holden Caulfield admires in Sallinger's "The Catcher in the Rye."
The near always brilliant Hitch's British work always felt real to me.
This movie still holds a high rank in my list.
Actings can be considered simply awful today, but this movie was made at a time that night lights (lights that made daytime appear night time on development process) was the highest achievement in movie industries. :-) and special effects were just being born including movie camera rolling on a rail the shoot the train station scene where agents' feet were shot, hence the running so slowly to let cameraman catch up.
The story line is still very much gripping.
Madeleine Carroll in the very stylish "39 Steps" fits Ebert's assessment like a glove. However, like other Hitchcock ladies who illustrate the stereotype she's spunky, funny and a perfect foil for her leading man, in this case Robert Donat. The hand of the master is everywhere in "Steps." Nobody can create a train scene like Hitch. Inside the cars lurch and rattle, light filters and flickers in a menacing way through the windows and outside views see the locomotive churning around a curve, the steam belching forth. Nobody can create a chase like Hitch and Carroll and Donat, shackled together with handcuffs hilariously elude the cops and the .proprieters of an inn where they are obliged to keep their manacled wrists in his coat pocket to escape detection.
"Steps" has some glorious photography of the Scottish Higlands at night but the camera hovers Another specialty of Hitchcock's is to move in on crowds and snicker a bit at the behavior of people who aren't at their best being shoved, kicked or whatever. He often shows the back of a character which is just as revealing as his face in limning personality. At one point hero and on-the-run Donat joins a passing parade where he successfully eludes detection. You see his back marching along and there is no doubt who he is. There is never a dull moment in this brew.
"Steps" is now almost eighty years old but it's vintage Hitchcock. The Criterion transfer is restored beautifully, the black and white and grey tones virtually perfect. Don't miss this Amazon Instant film! The slide bar at the bottom of all the films in the Instant stable allow you to repeat any section you'd like. The captions are very well synchronized which is important to people who are hearing impaired.
each remake of the story over the decades, filmmakers veered from the novel's original definition of
the 39 steps. Nevertheless, this first movie adaptation of the book is far and away the best. Hitch would
return to the screenplay's basic plot elements many times over throughout his remarkable career. And
countless directors and writers would imitate and borrow liberally - still to this day - but only rarely equal
the master's classic.