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The 39 Steps: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
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Alfred Hitchcock's most celebrated British thriller, adapted from John Buchan's novel. Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) becomes the victim of mistaken identity when a female corpse is dumped in his flat by a spy ring. He tries to track down the true murderers whilst being pursued by the police, and hooks up with an unwilling accomplice (Madeleine Carroll). Their adventure eventually leads them to a music hall, where the secret of the 39 steps is revealed. Also included is the documentary 'Hitchcock - The Early Years'.
A high point of Hitchcock's pre-Hollywood career, 1935's The Thirty-Nine Steps is the first and best of three film versions of John Buchan's rather stiff novel. Robert Donat plays Richard Hannay, who becomes embroiled in a plot to steal military secrets. He finds himself on the run; falsely accused of murder, while also pursuing the dastardly web of spies alluded to in the title. With a plot whose twists and turns match the hilly Scottish terrain in which much of the film is set, The Thirty-Nine Steps combines a breezy suavity with a palpable psychological tension. Hitchcock was already a master at conveying such tension through his cinematic methods, rather than relying just on situation or dialogue. Sometimes his ways of bringing the best out of his actors brought the worst out in himself. If the scene in which Donat is handcuffed to co-star Madeline Carroll has a certain edge, for instance, that's perhaps because the director mischievously cuffed them together in a rehearsal, then left them attached for a whole afternoon, pretending to have lost the key. The movie also introduces Hitchcock's favoured plot device, the "McGuffin" (here, the military secret), the unexplained device or "non-point" on which the movie turns. --David Stubbs --This text refers to the DVD edition.See all Product Description
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Hitch's (almost unique) visual sense hits home immediately as a result of his initial set-up of visiting Canadian Richard Hannay's (Robert Donat) strange encounter at a London theatre with Lucie Mannheim's mysterious, flustered and foreign-accented 'Miss Smith', via the words 'Music Hall' emblazoned across the screen and Hannay's feet and lower body (only) in screenshot entering the theatre. At the same time, the theatregoers' cockney humour and banter, as they quiz variety act Mr Memory, assures us that we're also in for a barrel of laughs. It is not until the enigmatic Miss Smith does her dying swan act that Hannay takes her story seriously ('Sounds like a spy story.Read more ›
If you own the Criterion DVD, then you're probably not going to notice much difference between the ITV Bluray and that DVD upscaled. Plus, the Criterion transfer has much better contrast.
In terms of extras, you get:
- audio commentary from Marian Keane (from the Criterion DVD)
- "Hitchcock: The Early Years" documentary
- short "On Location" ITV programme, with Robert Powell
- stills, on set photos, posters & publicity
Overall, a disappointing release of a early Hitchcock masterpiece.
themselves. The film IS better than North By Northwest. Now I have watched the latter film 3-4 times since, but I cannot shake the feeling it is somewhat overrated but by just. It is still an excellent film, but by no means up there with his best. The 39 Steps is better. The story has better pacing, a wittier interchange between the 2 leads (and from the supporting characters - i.e. the 2 gentlemen in the train) and some subtler comedy substances. Plus the fact the locations are moodier - London, and dark, misty Scotland! The chemistry between the two leads is phenomenal much better than in North by Northwest, and yet, is based purely on the their mental and verbal interactions rather than their physical.
There are also some great touches such as that famous sound cut to the roaring train when the first murder is discovered, and just the small, finer creative flourishes littered throughout the film (including an early great continous cut in the car, somehting he would try later in Rope). These touches add so much to the enjoyment value if you can appreciate them. The set pieces, although more brief and low key compared to his later films, they complement the story to no end. They all fit in with the natural flow of the film as opposed to being flamboyant showpieces.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Cant beat Hitchcocks version. Carroll and Donat wonderful togetherPublished 21 days ago by james hardy
Unique and essential viewing. If you're after a "reference quality" version of this film, (which, sorry folks, sounds a bit train spotty to me), then perhaps this isn't... Read morePublished 25 days ago by KTP