The 39 Steps is probably the most recognised film which I have watched so far in this challenge, it is often considered as one of Hitchcock’s best and its success is one of the reasons which fired him to fame. It was also an interesting film for me personally having read (and thoroughly enjoyed) the novel upon which is based.

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

The storyline of the film is fairly simple. Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is a Canadian living in London. When he is framed for the murder of a woman he is forced to run to Scotland in an attempt to clear his name. In Scotland he encounters a variety of obstacles ranging from police, criminal, conspiracies and a lovely lady (Madeliene Carroll).

 

THE GOOD

Most of the film is good. It is a gamechanging film in terms of the spy genre with many elements (in terms of both narrative and style) still being used today. It astounds me that this film was made 30 years before James Bond and is easily as good a genre piece as say From Russia With Love.

In terms of moments there are several brilliant ones; there is a chase scene on a train which is brilliantly crafted and gives across a real sense of danger as Hannay attempts his escape.

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The film is very Hithcockian in terms of… well everything. The story is probably the most typical one of a wrongly accused man trying to clear his name. Then there are murders, chases, drama, extreme close ups, notes, tension and the climax takes place at a famous landmark (the London palladium); it is difficult to find a part of this film which does not have a Hitchcock trademark plastered on and was quite frankly delightful to watch.

The entire film is superb in terms of pacing and tension however one scene is wonderful for tension and that is the one in which Hannay must make a speech about politics in order to avoid arrest. He rambles on for several minutes all the time watching as police surround the area and the shots are a perfect example of how to create tension in a film.

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THE BAD

My only real problem with the film is that as an adaptation of a book it was terribly disappointing as very little from the book is put on screen; even ‘The 39 Steps’ are changed to something different in the film. This factor was annoying but after the first 10 minutes I decided to watch it as a standalone film rather than an adaptation and in those terms it is brilliant.

 

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hithcock appears near the start of the film walking past a bus in a coat and hat.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Hitchcocks first masterpiece and also a very important film in terms of genre. A perfect example of both Hitchcocks timelessness and genius. 5 Hitch’s.

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