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4.4 out of 5 stars174
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 16 April 2013
Note to self in future: always read customer reviews on amazon before purchasing anything new. I love this film and jumped at the chance to buy in blu ray, having missed the fact that it had been out for a while. What an appalling disappointment. Within 5 minutes my wife and I said, there is something wrong here and stopped watching. I had built myself up to thinking this might be as good as the truly wonderful blu ray of Casablanca. Without doubt it is the worst of my blu ray library by a mile and in fact will not be in it for much longer as it is on it's way to the charity shop. My copy in dvd format by Network as part of Hitchcock, The British Years is much better. It did not cost much and now I know why but I am nonetheless very disappointed. Note: this review applies to the ITV version.
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on 21 October 2009
As a fan of this 1935 classic, I was so looking forward to this HD release. With the exception of the aspect ratio on Thunderbirds, ITV blu-ray haven't put a foot wrong so far. This release breaks that record. A candidate for the worst HD release ever. What went wrong?. No restoration, print damage evident all the way through, no contrast, greys instead of rich blacks and picture so soft, it could almost be a VHS tape converted to HD. Avoid this like the plague and purchase the excellent Criterion DVD instead. The picture quality on this blu-ray release really is that bad. ITV, hang your head in shame at this travesty of a disc..
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on 23 October 2009
I watched this on a rental last night and I am very glad I did not buy it! The film is fantastic with humour, great actors and stunning cinematography for its time. However the transfer is very, very poor. After seeing some great remasters recently, this is very disappointing indeed. As mentioned by the other reviewers, the picture lacks detail, contrast, stability (it wobbles a lot) and has significant damage. The audio is also very poor. Both the video and audio elements need a lot of work. Unless there's a vastly improved re-issue, I cannot recommend this Blu-ray at all. Very sad.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 May 2013
This 1935 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock (which was based on John Buchan's novel of the same name) is, for me, one of the most brilliantly made and (for its time) innovative thrillers to ever reach the big screen, which, along with the same director's The Man Who Knew Too Much (made the previous year) set a template (and standard) for a vast swathe of other spy/espionage/chase films which followed, including Hitch's own Foreign Correspondent, Saboteur, The Lady Vanishes and North By North West. The 39 Steps is a model in the art of visual storytelling, and is peppered with moments of great humour (much of it decidedly risqué for the time), adventure and suspense.

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. That's exactly what it is'), setting off a chain of events taking in a visit to the Scottish highlands, where he initially takes refuge in a chauvinistic and puritanical crofter's house (John Laurie and subjugated wife Peggy Ashcroft both superb here), before encountering the Mr Big in the plotters' organisation, a certain Professor Jordan (a suitably menacing, but also rather blasé Godfrey Tearle), then picking up along the way the initially distrusting Pamela (an endearing turn from Madeleine Carroll), finding himself having to evade the twin pursuits of both the 'spies' and the police, before ending up back at the Palladium for the film's denouement and Mr Memory's final curtain.

Of course, whilst the fast-moving plot of The 39 Steps should be enough keep all but the most curmudgeonly viewer glued the screen, Hitch also displays his embryonic visual brilliance to great effect. For me, this film contains some of Hitch's finest cinematic touches and sequences, including Hannay suspiciously eying above the top of the newspaper on the train, the Forth railway bridge escape sequence, the 'crofting trio' exchanging furtive glances, Professor Jordan revealing his distinguishing feature, Hannay inadvertently being coerced into a public speaking engagement, Pamela's overhearing of the 'baddies' phone call, Hannay spying Professor Jordan's digit through opera glasses and Mr Memory's glance up into the theatre box (and I'm sure I've missed many others). The film was also notable for how Hitch pushed the boundaries of 'allowable morals' as he depicted Hannay planting a giant kiss on stranger Pamela's lips in their first encounter, salesmen discussing the latest in women's underwear in front of a man of the cloth, Peggy Ashcroft's frustrated and tempted crofter's wife and Hannay and Pamela's hotel bedroom encounter.

One final mention on the acting. Much of it is, of course, highly stylised (typical of the time) rather than very naturalistic by modern-day standards but, for me, this does not detract from (indeed, it could be argued that it adds to) the film's overall enjoyment rating. Robert Donat, in particular, is perhaps not ideal for the role, but his suavity and obvious qualification as a 'jolly good chap' enables him to carry it off.

For me, The 39 Steps remains a master-class in the art of visual, cinematic storytelling.
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on 22 October 2009
The transfer is a step up from the previous Carlton/Granada/ITV DVD releases and more detail is visible in the image. However, the film desperately needs restoration work and a transfer with better quality contrast. If you don't own the film on DVD at all, then this Bluray is worth considering, but don't expect a reference quality transfer.

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.
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on 15 January 2003
Without a doubt, this is the best Hitchcock chase movie, and certainly one of his most enjoyable. Many may be put of by the somewhat shaky production values and the age (I was), which makes the film seem tremendously old. Coupled to this, Robert Donat's hair and moustache does the film no favours. However those who turn a blind eye to this gem will kick
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. For me North by Northwest is a more glossier affair and is a great example of the stereotypical Hollywood romance including the long gazes, passionate kisses, and reliance on star charisma to give charisma.
The 39 Steps is something special and deserves to be in the BFi's greatest list. Certainly at LEAST as good as the THIRD MAN - okay I lie, its better. Thats how good this is. While not as deep or psychologically complex as some of his other works - for pure entertainment, atmosphere and storytelling its hard to beat. What I like about Hitchcock, is the fact that he was always in it for good, intelligent entertainment (fused with creative art) - and certainly the amount of interest and exhaustive examination into who Mr Hitchcock was, is utterly pointless - people need to spend more time watching his films, rather than partaking in pointless exercises. The 39 Steps is the most entertaining, fun and thrilling film I have ever witnessed. A masterpiece in every sense of the word.
PS the similarities of this film to 1942s Saboteur (an underrated Hitchcock movie) are extraordinary, if it were not for the fact that both films are made by him it would be plagiarism. Similarities extend to the device with the handcuffs, the somewhat feisty and hysterical blonde, journeys to the middle of nowhere to confront the mastermind, and the way the main protagonist is helped by locals who are all too quick to place faith in believing him.
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on 9 October 2014
Having purchased this I then read the reviews and immediately cancelled. There is an excellent comparison of all the versions on the DVD Beaver website. Criterion comes out top followed by Carlton and ITV - but it's a region 1 release. Clearly some more technical investment is needed to get a top notch restoration suitable for Blu-ray. One of the documentary channels on UK digital TV has shown what can be done with 100 year old stock from World war one - clearly the same technique needs to be used for this masterpiece.
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on 14 August 2003
I just watched The 39 Steps again to celebrate Hitchcock's birthday, and was amazed all over again. This is one of his best films, and rewards repeat viewings. Nearly every scene is riveting, the timing is perfect, the tension never lets up -- and it's all handled with Hitchcock's trademark wit.
The plot introduces a famous Hitchcock theme: an innocent man wrongly accused and on the run. Who cares that it's not faithful to the Buchan book? Buchan himself admitted the film was better than anything he'd written.
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on 18 December 2015
This is one of my all time favourite movies and I couldn't wait to own it on blu-ray.
What a massive disappointment, the transfer to blu-ray is absolutely no different to the normal definition dvd available. I watched this movie a couple of weeks ago on a satellite HD channel and to be honest the picture quality was far far better than this sorry attempt at mugging people off under the blu-ray banner(sadly,me being one of them!).
In fact I even started to doubt that I had been sent the blu-ray version and had to check the disc and the case.
If it wasn't for the fact that delivery was free and the price was reduced I would either be giving it away or returning it for a refund!
An absolute waste of time money and effort, mind you I'm not surprised as it's from ITV who either fob you off with poor quality discs of movies or tv series that are shorter cut versions of the televised episodes, i.e. endeavour.
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on 17 June 2012
Sadly another port to Blu-Ray where the film is grainy and spotting at times, the sound very low. Either the original film used was exceptionally poor, or this transfer was done on the cheap and in a rush. Shame when you know that films like Casablanca was done beautifully.
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