While it's true that this 1959 screen adaptation of The 39 Steps
pales in comparison to Alfred Hitchcock's seminal 1935 version
, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable romp that compensates for a lack of any tension whatsoever with a generous dose of genial good humour. Affable Kenneth More's Richard Hannay more closely resembles the kind of roles Cary Grant was playing for Hitch in the late 1950s; Finnish blonde Taina Elg, in the somewhat unlikely role of a prim Scottish schoolmistress, is his love interest. Although handcuffed together, More and Elg fail to radiate any sexual chemistry, even when scandalously forced to share a room and a bed. Much better are the delightful cameos: Sid James as a roguish lorry driver; Brenda De Banzie as voluptuous psychic Nellie; and Joan Hickson as a simpering teacher. As a thriller it's hardly in the same league as North by Northwest
, but as a window on life in England and Scotland in the 1950s, this 39 Steps
has much to recommend it. --Mark Walker
In Ralph Thomas' 1959 version of John Buchans classic thriller, The 39 Steps, Kenneth More ("Reach For the Sky") plays Richard Hannay--the innocent man caught up in international intrigue. After Richard meets a young nanny and takes her back to his flat, he soon learns that she is not all that she seemed to be. When she is murdered and Richard becomes the prime suspect, he suddenly finds himself on the run from the police and heading toward Scotland in search of the secret behind the mysterious "39 Steps".