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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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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 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 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 January 2002
Hitchcock tore up the original Buchan plot and came up with a much better movie plot; which is fortunate because what he gave us was one of the greatest comedy-thrillers of all time; and possibly the best British movie ever (and I don't say that lightly.) The pace is taught and exciting, and the narrative structure is just delicious. The ridiculously debonaire Robert Donat has never been equalled in the much-played role of Richard Hannay - the classic Hitchcockian 'man on the run for a crime he didn't commit' - which the great director was, of course, to use over and again in later films; and Madeleine Carroll, his effortlessly gorgeous co-star, is proof positive that there was definitely no shortage of sex appeal in our grandparents' day.
All this is brought to you on a fabulous print in this DVD version form Carlton - huge congratulations to them for putting in the effort on this special edition, and treating the film with the care it deserves - it looks and sounds fantastic: not bad for a 70 year old; and when the quality of the transfer is as good as this you realise how favourably these great classics compare with our modern efforts. Every serious movie buff should have this flick - and this has to be the best-looking version of the film around.
If it's cold and wet outside, get the kettle on, find your comfiest armchair and slap this into the DVD player. You'll never look back.
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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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on 3 October 2010
Specifications: -

Case - Standard U.K plastic Blu-ray case (14mm spine)

Disc - 25GB, MPEG-4 AVC encoded, Region B locked.

Video - 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio in a 16:9 frame (black bars appear at the sides of the picture), Black & White, 1080p/24fps.

Audio - Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono.

Subtitles - Optional English.

Supplements -
Commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keene.
'The Art of Film: Vintage Hitchcock' Featurette (29mins in SD).
The Lux Radio Theater Adaptation (60mins -audio only).
'On Location' Featurette presented by Actor Robert Powell - (13mins).
Photo Galleries.

Censorship?: No censorship cuts have been made at all since the films release. The BBFC passed the film with a U Certificate, and the film does contain some very mild violence.

One of the best pre-world war II Hitchcock films, and also one of the first to incorporate the 'wrong man' theme. Even after 75 years since its release its still an enjoyable yarn, with some fine acting (for the time) and excellent cinematography.
The picture looks okay (but not brilliant) considering the films age and source material. Theres noticable grain throughout and it looks slightly sharper than the dvd edition but contast levels and blacks are very weak. Theres also some noticable artefacts in some scenes and the ocassional blurriness. This film needs a good re-mastering/re-storing. I know this is an old film but with a little re-mastering it could look pristine (see The Masters of Cinema's 'Fritz Lang's M' blu-ray for example)
The audio is bad. No lossless 2.0 mono just a bog standard Dolby Digital. I had to turn the volume up and down on my sound system very high just to hear the dialogue in some scenes - very frustrating. The worst thing though is that a number of chapters are noticably out of sync. I don't know if that is how the film is anyway (a dubbing error during the editing process in 1935? surely not it's a Hitchcock film!) but it is very annoying.
The commentary on the disc i just found boring (didn't listen to all of it). The so-called Hitchcock Scholar just basically describes the scenes and what the characters are doing in the film. Not much in the way of information about the making of the film or Hitchcock's style really. The art of film featurette has clips from the early Hitchcock films and is quite enjoyable regardless of poor picture quality. The on location featurette is the best mainly because of the dry humour of presenter Robert Powell, and shows the locations of the three version of 'The 39 Steps'. I didn't listen to Radio show but its a nice addition to the package, and theres a pointless photo gallery too.
A Hitchcock classic thats begging to be released with a pristine transfer - unfortunately this is not it. If you already own The U.S Region 1 Criterion Collection dvd then i would not recommend upgrading to this blu-ray. Only a slight improvement visually and from what i've read in reviews the audio is superior on the Criterion Collection edition.
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VINE VOICEon 18 May 2004
This film is so good, so much a part of my life, that it is difficult to know where to start. It has the pace, the wit and the suspense that characterise the best of Hitchcock. It also has Hitchcocks's best lead actor in the truly marvellous Robert Donat. His lightness of touch, flair for comedy and luxurious voice are a real treat. And Madeleine Carroll is no slouch and the interplay between them is the film's real heart. This is (surprisingly, given its age) the sexiest film Hitchcock ever made. Buy it and watch it and then watch it again.
The documentary on Hitchcock's early movies is delightful and the dvd makes the film look great. If the house was on fire and I had to rescue one dvd this could very easily be the one.
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