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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The British classic that really put Hitchcock on the map
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...
Published on Sept. 4 2006 by Daniel Jolley

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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. In "The 39 Steps" Hitch' perfectly captures the aura of swinging London and its music halls - except that this time they have become the scenes for murder, mayhem and, one of Hitchcock's classic touches, the wrong man in...
Published on Dec 9 2003 by Nix Pix


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5.0 out of 5 stars Go for the Criterion, Aug. 19 2002
By 
Paul Anthony Hagl (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Five stars in all might make me sound like an easy-to-please viewer, but I don't see how this DVD could be better. Criterion never disappoints, so if you're buying this film it's worth paying extra for this one. I believe the transfer is way superior and the extras go on longer than an awards night.
The documentary focuses on Hitchcock's British films, which aren't as widely seen these days and also a complete radio broadcast from 1937. Talk about diggin' up some material! I also enjoyed the commentary and that press book stuff. I'm not even sure I've seen it all. Actually, I'm still not sure what The 39 Steps really is exactly, but who cares? I pity people who don't watch certain movies because they're old and black & white. The reason people should see this film is because no one can make a film like this anymore. This is a great film, don't miss it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock's First Masterpiece, July 1 2002
By A Customer
THE 39 STEPS was one of Hitchcock's first films to be a genuine success--and it's just as entertaining today as it probably was when it was first released. For the first time, Hitchcock employs the theme of the "wrong man" on the run not only from spies, but also from the police (which explains why he cannot go to them for help). In this case, Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) becomes involved with a secret agent who spends the night with him and then winds up dead. Hannay soon finds himself on the run from other spies who think he knows too much and want him dead. Eventually, he finds himself handcuffed to Pamela (Madeliene Carroll), a young blonde who, in typical Hollywood fasion, fumes at him for most of the picture before they both realize that they're in love. THE 39 STEPS provides consistent entertainment as it zips frantically from one scenario to the next--just as Hannay gets out of one trap, he falls into another. (The most fascinating "episode" in the film occurs when Hannay spends the night at a farm in the Scottish countryside with a sternly religious farmer and his wife.) It is certainly the best of Hitchcock's "on the run" films, which later included NORTH BY NORTHWEST; THE 39 STEPS is short, suspenseful (but never really frightening), at times drily funny, and even romantic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock's First Masterpiece, July 1 2002
By A Customer
THE 39 STEPS was one of Hitchcock's first films to be a genuine success--and it's just as entertaining today as it probably was when it was first released. For the first time, Hitchcock employs the theme of the "wrong man" on the run not only from spies, but also from the police (which explains why he cannot go to them for help). In this case, Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) becomes involved with a secret agent who spends the night with him and then winds up dead. Hannay soon finds himself on the run from other spies who think he knows too much and want him dead. Eventually, he finds himself handcuffed to Pamela (Madeliene Carroll), a young blonde who, in typical Hollywood fasion, fumes at him for most of the picture before they both realize that they're in love. THE 39 STEPS provides consistent entertainment as it zips frantically from one scenario to the next--just as Hannay gets out of one trap, he falls into another. (The most fascinating "episode" in the film occurs when Hannay spends the night at a farm in the Scottish countryside with a sternly religious farmer and his wife.) It is certainly the best of Hitchcock's "on the run" films, which later included NORTH BY NORTHWEST; THE 39 STEPS is short, suspenseful (but never really frightening), at times drily funny, and even romantic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars IF ORSON WELLES HAD MADE COMEDY THRILLERS . . ., May 28 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: 39 Steps [Special Edition] (DVD)
Don't miss this jewel.
Orson Welles might have made this one, comical and somewhat risque as it is. Welles wouldn't have made LADY VANISHES, however: cute little old ladies weren't his cinematic forte. Both, however, are among the top half-dozen comical thrillers of all time.
Parts of this film are truly chilling. I kid you not. Hitch didn't skimp here. The double-agent spywoman Donat meets is excellent: "he can have a hundred names, and look like a thousand people...these men stop at nothing." The brief segments including this woman are among the best in popular film. For heaven's sake, don't miss them.
Donat's encounter with the corrupt, established-in-a-small-town spy who has the chief of police wrapped round one of his little fingers, is great. The pursuit of Donat by corrupt police is thrilling and hilarious. And the worthless airhead Donat "persuades" to his assistance doubles the fun.
....and if you don't thrill to Donat getting up in the theatre shouting, "What are the Thirty-nine Steps?"...well, you must have lost your nervous system long ago. . .
It's interesting how such a long-ago, forgotten 'comic' flick is still capable of nearly inducing heart attacks in 21st century moderns who have "seen it all."
Don't miss it. It belongs on your shelf next to LADY VANISHES. You'll go back to them more often than you believe right now.
-moosbrugger
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5.0 out of 5 stars Want to see a thrill-filled movie in under two hours?, March 5 2002
Then get hold of Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps". Having received Criterion's release of "Notorious", and being blown away by all of the extra features and practically pristine print, I later got "The 39 Steps" for my birthday. Among the extras are digital copies of press books, lobby cards, and even a radio broadcast. As for the film itself...no one but Hitchcock could weave so many events - mayhem at a music hall, mistaken identity, foreign spies, chases through moving trains, mixups at political rallies - in a clear, clever film which is never crammed or labored. And what is more of a marvel is that all of these events - and many more - play out in a film which is just under an hour and one half! Alfred Hitchcock filmed "The Thirty -Nine Steps" in 1935, early in his career. Genius, and even prodigy of film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE CRITERION COLLECTION version is AWESOME, Feb. 2 2002
I have seen the Laserlight version. While I found it to be fairly acceptable considering the low cost, if you are a Hitchcock fan Criterion is the only way to go. The Criterion presentation is hard to fault; considering the age of the film, the image is clear and the sound is always intelligible. Plus I believe the Laserlight version is missing a few minutes, running about 83 minutes as opposed to the 86 minute Criterion.
The movie, after all these decades, remains very entertaining. The humor, particularly, holds up surprisingly well. This is in large part to a fantastic performance by Robert Donat. Much has been said about the movie, so rather than reiterate a similar appraisal I'll move on to discuss more reasons why the Criterion version is superior (besides the great picture and audio).
There are four main supplements included. The two best are actually vintage pieces, which is somewhat surprising for a 1935 film. The 1937 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast is presented in its entirety, including a commercial break and interview with a retired U.S. spy. This radio adaptation is very entertaining, and also interesting in the ways it compromises for the lack of picture. It runs for just shy of a full hour. Criterion was thoughtful enough to include a handful of still photos of the cast members that occasionally show up on-screen as the radio show plays.
The second most interesting piece is a text-based feature, and one of the best of its kind that I've seen. The original pressbook is presented page-by-page. This in itself is useful if you're at all interested in the evolution of movie promotion, as this pressbook is sort of like a newspaper- very different from the pressbooks of today. What makes this a great feature is the ability to highlight and enlarge much of the content on each page; you can get a better look at the vintage photos, as well as read the full text of many articles about the film's stars, about Hitchcock, and many anecdotes about the making of the film.
Marian Keene, a Hitchcock scholar, provides audio commentary for the length of the feature. It's not the greatest commentary of all time, but it's very worthwhile. She talks in detail about the compositions of the shots, explaining why the film was visually groundbreaking for its time. She also seems to find phallic symbols in most of the scenes. The downside of her commentary is a tendancy to merely tell us what we're already looking at, or what we're about to look at. But regardless, I felt my appreciation of the movie was increased after listening.
The least useful of the main supplements is an approximately 30 minute documentary that originally aired on TV in the '70s. Basically it consists of film clips from a variety of late 20s and early 30s Hitchcock film, mixed with a few still photos, and narrated by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. If you keep in mind that there was no home video in the 1970s, it is easy to see why this program would be valuable for its time. Most of the public had no way of seeing these old films. But now that they are widely available, it makes more sense to just watch the films themselves. In fact, this documentary will spoil the films if you haven't already seen them- many important plot points and twists are revealed. Still, its a passable overview of Hitchcock's early career.
Lastly, there are a handful of stills featuring original production art. These is actually more valuable than the documentary, since they pertain directly to "The 39 Steps."
Criterion really did a great job with this release. If you're serious about collecting Hitchcock on DVD, spring for this version. If you just want to see the movie without dropping thirty bucks, the Laserlight disc isn't the worst thing out there (plus its got one of those great Tony Curtis intros! I'm not kidding, those intros are the best thing about the bargain-basement Laserlight series.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Hitchcock; As perfect as any movie can be., Dec 30 2001
By 
Mae East (Brooklyn, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 39 Steps (VHS Tape)
I don't know what movie the reviewers who were giving one or two stars watched, but it certainly couldn't have been Hitch's 39 Steps!!!
This movie is Exciting, Hilarious, and Sexy.
The Public Domain (extremely cheap) copies of CLASSICS such as this one are NEVER, EVER, EVER worth a dime! Good sound and picture quality are a MUST to get the most enjoyment out of this wonderful comedy-mystery.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Criterion release is among the top DVDs ever engineered., Dec 27 2001
By A Customer
Do not waste your money on the Laserlight release of The 39 Steps. I doubt there are very many people who do not yet recognize the superiority of the Criterion Collection, but if you have any doubts as to the merits of the Criterion release, just compare this edition... and you will appreciate how remarkable Criterion's digital transfer of this film is. The audio commentary is interesting (though nothing extraordinary); what is special about this release is the clarity of the image (while remaining true to the original source material). Though I would contend that either Notorious or Rear Window is Hitchcock's best work, I could understand how one might judge The 39 Steps his best film. If you are only familiar with Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, North by Northwest, et cetera, I would strongly encourage you to watch The 39 Steps, which expresses the more playful, less sadistic side of Hitch's work. To categorize this film as "early" Hitchcock, while factually correct, unfairly subordinates this film, as well as his other work from the 30s, as well as the early 40s, to the so-called "later" films, as if the latter were somehow more mature and evolved. In fact, one might argue that the opposite is true, that perhaps one finds alreadly in The 39 Steps the most profound testimony to Hitchcock's vision. Robert Donat gives a superb and charming performance in the role of the man wrongly accused. Madeleine Carroll, as in "The Secret Agent," is outstanding, and, next to Ingrid Bergman, is perhaps Hitchcock's best leading lady, no offense intended to Grace Kelly or Joan Fontaine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Film noir...., Nov. 25 2001
If you must buy the THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS buy the Criterion version. And of course, if you are a film buff, you must buy THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS. Hitchcock's techniques are still taught in film making classes and this film is a good example of why he remains the master film maker.
STEPS is a beautifully restored and artfully done black and white film from the 1930s filled with excellent shots dependent upon back-lighting, side-lighting, and underlighting. In addition, many of the techniques Hitchcock perfected are still being used in modern suspense thrillers - running figures sillouetted against the sky, a screaming woman whose voice becomes the shrill whistle of a departing train, boat, etc., leading characters handcuffed together, the chase onto and through a moving train. The autogyro the police use to chase the leading man was a forerunner of the helicopter. The autogyro took off on a runway like an airplane but was kept aloft by a rotary propeller like a helicopter and was in it's infancy in 1935. Surely this was one of the first times a conveyience of this sort was used in a chase scene. The use of the autogyro (helicopter) and other aspects of STEPS are found in many later films including Hitchcock's own NORTH BY NORTHWEST.
The Criterion version contains the usual overvoice commentary; a documentary about Hitchcock's "British" period which includes the making of THE LADY VANISHES, the first MAN WHO KNEW TO MUCH, STEPS, and other favorites; plus a LUX Theater presentation based on the 1915 book THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS and starring Robert Montgomery.
If you're interested in film history or Hitchcock, or just want to watch an entertaining story you'll enjoy this film. Prior to viewing STEPS, I watched Woody Allen's PLAY IT AGAIN SAM (a send up of CASABLANCA), THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE--the Joel and Ethan Coen film "noir" currently playing in movie theaters, and the American Movie Classics piece on film noir. I found the connections between film noir and more recent films fascinating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars VINTAGE HITCHCOCK., Nov. 20 2001
This review is from: 39 Steps (VHS Tape)
Many critics and viewers alike feel that this is one of Hitchcocks' finest films: viewer response to the film today is often as enthusiastic as when it was first released. One of the directors' favourite themes is used here: the innocent caught in bizarre circumstances that he or she doesn't understand. Particularly effective in the film are rapid changes of situation and Hitchcock's obvious contention that nothing is sacred, especially if a location or situation can be used to demonstrate the cleverness of his protagonist. There is a funny scene with Donat and Carroll, handcuffed together, pretending to be newlyweds "forced" to spend the night together. Visually, the film enabled Hitchcock to transfer some silent film techniques most effectively: the silent dialogue between Donat and the farmer's kind wife as seen through the window of the farmer's cottage is memorable as is the wind blowing curtains at a window on a stormy London night. There was no doubt that Hitchcock was a genius; he was the real star of the film; two modern remakes pale in comparison to this original gem from 1935.
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39 Steps [Special Edition]
39 Steps [Special Edition] by Alfred Hitchcock (DVD - 2003)
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