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39 Steps (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Blu-ray
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 42.99
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39 Steps (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + The Lady Vanishes (Criterion) (Blu-Ray) + Man Who Knew Too Much [Blu-ray]
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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 Buchann's rather stiff novel. Robert Donat plays the rancher embroiled in a plot to steal British 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

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
1935's The 39 Steps is the film that really put Alfred Hitchcock on the map as a world-class movie director. With its mixture of classic Hitchcockian wit, dark (and light) humor, and suspense, it brought to the fore the man's genius and set the stage for many a classic thriller to come. Robert Donat is excellent in the role of Richard Hannay, a young Canadian who finds himself in between a rock and a hard place after his encounter with a young female spy in London, while Madeleine Carroll brings beauty, grace, and a sense of romance to Hannay's increasingly harrowing quest to not only prove himself innocent of murder but to safeguard the defense of Great Britain from foreign agents. All he has to go on are a cryptic reference to something called "the 39 steps," a name of a town in Scotland, and a warning to stay away from any man missing the upper digit on his right pinkie finger.

When the mysterious Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim) invites herself home with him and tells him her fantastic story of intrigue and danger, Hannay doesn't quite believe her - until, that is, she turns up in the night with a knife in her back. Knowing that the killers are waiting for him outside (and also knowing how likely the police would be to find him guilty of the murder up in his flat), he quickly adopts the classic mantle of the innocent man on the run, desperate to ultimately prove his innocence. The journey he makes from London to a little town in Scotland is not an easy one, as Hannay finds himself running from the bad guys who want to kill him as well as the cops pursuing him for murder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nail Biter June 16 2004
Format:DVD
"39 Steps" is the last of Hitchcock's British nail biters. He took his style to Hollywood after this one. All the elements of a Hitchcock thriller are here. We have the mistaken man plot. Our hero has stumbled on a den of spies. He must prove his innocence and thwart the theft of military secrets and escape Scotland Yard from London Music halls to Scottish moors. The Hitchcock blonde is Madeline Carroll and her stocking scene must have been tough for American censors. Hitchcock learned his craft from the German expressionists and you can see the darkness of that genre in this gem. In the top twenty of best movies ever made, I recommend 39 Steps.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion does it again... June 10 2004
Format:DVD
I just ordered the Criterion Hitchcock "set" which includes "The 39 Steps", a movie I've watched many times over the last 20 years, but NEVER in a form this crisp and well-transfered; it's been restored beautifully, and as with all the films("My Man Godfrey" and "The Lady Vanishes", to name two)that have been kicking around with duped, grainy, fuzzy prints for the last 60-some years that were FINALLY restored-it's almost like watching a new movie-even if you'd thought you'd memorized all the dialogue and action! There's just so much that's missed in a bad print. Here, we have Hitch at his finest....there just isn't a dull second in this film. It's really as sure-fire as any movie ever made, in terms of entertainment. I believe this too was Hitchcock's first huge breakout international hit, although happily for us, he didn't "go Hollywood" for another 3 years or so(and gave us the later "Lady Vanishes"-another Criterion must-have).
One caveat: if you're like me(hopeless film buff), you often get these Criterions for not only the fantastic quality of the print but for the often illuminating audio tracks, usually provided by experts of one type or another; I've never quibbled with any of them before, but I have to say, don't expect Marion Keane's wall-to-wall droning to be worth it. There's generally two kinds of film "discussion"(not counting the sort where the actual director or actors gab, which we get with new films): the sort that's superb, like Rudy Behlmer's on "Adventures of Robin Hood"-an amalgam of film history, film technique, on-the-fly biographies of the actors you're watching, tidbits about the production locations, etc.etc.-nd then there's the OTHER kind:
film "semiotics".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Murder and mystery in Scotland June 3 2004
Format:DVD
"The 39 Steps" will never be called anyone's favorite Hitchcock film. He had not yet hit his stride, and many of the Hitchcock hallmarks had not yet been developed. Most famous in this film is the use of the "MacGuffin Principle," seen in movies such as "Pulp Fiction" and "The Maltese Falcon." There is something everyone wants, but what it is isn't really important. Still, it is an enjoyable movie and worth the time to watch it.
The film starts very slow, with an extremely contrived beginning catapulting our wayward protagonist into adventure and mystery. Robert Donat is very charming as the Canadian Richard Hannay, and he accepts the call to adventure readily. The trail leads him from England to Scotland, and there the story finally begins to come together.
Once in Scotland, Donat schemes and charms his way through an entertaining cast of characters, from the brusque Scotsman and his young bride, willing to sell Donat out for a few pounds, to the classical 4-fingered man, each moves the hero a few more steps along his dangerous path. Along the way, he ends up handcuffed to the lovely Madeleine Carroll, and then drags her along for the ride. How the movie ends...well, you certainly don't expect me to tell you!
If you do buy "The 39 Steps," definitely pick up the Criterion Collection version. The extras are deluxe, and well worth the extra cost. The Lux Radio presentation is a real gem. One of my favorite extras on the Criterion disks. "The Art of Film: Vintage Hitchcock" is an excellent documentary on Hitchcock's British films. As always, the commentary is also excellent.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good story, classic Hitchcock
Wonderful rendition of the John Buchan novel. Still resonates in this new century. A must for the lovers of the genre - spy, chase, mystery.
Published 11 months ago by AndreC
4.0 out of 5 stars THE 39 STEPS
The delivery was excellent. I could not play the DVD on my DVD player. I contacted the Seller, through Amazon, asking for suggestions. Read more
Published 12 months ago by R. W. SIMPSON
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sur toute la ligne !
Le produit m'a été livré dans le délai prévu. La qualité mentionnée était exacte. Read more
Published 19 months ago by MFJ
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Hitchcock
I found the ending to this film to be disappointing, I might even say lame or contrived, and that ruined my enjoyment of most of the movie. Read more
Published on June 5 2004 by Chris Cavell
5.0 out of 5 stars a great Hitchcock classic
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
The 39 steps, one of Hitchcock's most well known British films, is surely a great one bansed on the "wrong... Read more
Published on May 5 2004 by Ted
5.0 out of 5 stars When were Helicopters invented?
I was of the belief that helicopters wern't invented until WW2 or later, but after seeing this excellent movie, and the moors scene where one is chasing our hero, I realise that I... Read more
Published on March 6 2004 by RICK AND OLLY
4.0 out of 5 stars Why 39 Steps?
I like this movie, the characters are believable and sympathetic, the action is riveting, and there is enough suspense . . . but . . . why is the plot so convoluted. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by C Brunner
3.0 out of 5 stars Takes All The Right "Steps"
There are those who will agrue forever and a day about which Hitchcock was better. The American Hitchcock ("Rear Window", "Psycho", & "Rebecca") or the British Hitchcock ("The Lady... Read more
Published on Dec 22 2003 by Alex Udvary
2.0 out of 5 stars DISMAL TRANSFER OF A HITCHCOCK CLASSIC
Alfred Hitchcock's British film making period hints at the brilliant foray of creative genius that was to follow during his Hollywood tenure. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2003 by Nix Pix
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