39 Steps (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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The 39 Steps (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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".Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 on Oct. 4 2013 by AndreC
Le produit m'a été livré dans le délai prévu. La qualité mentionnée était exacte. Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2013 by MFJ
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 morePublished on June 5 2004 by Chris Cavell
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
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 morePublished on March 6 2004 by RICK AND OLLY
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 morePublished on Feb. 23 2004 by C Brunner