The 39 Steps

( 13 )

Overview

This classic British thriller was one of Alfred Hitchcock's first major international successes, and it introduced a number of the stylistic and thematic elements that became hallmarks of his later work. Richard Hannay Robert Donat, a Canadian rancher on vacation in England, attends a music hall performance by "Mr. Memory" Wylie Watson; in the midst of the show, shots ring out and Richard flees the theater. Moments later, a terrified woman Lucie Mannheim begs Richard to help her; back at his room, she tells him ...
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Overview

This classic British thriller was one of Alfred Hitchcock's first major international successes, and it introduced a number of the stylistic and thematic elements that became hallmarks of his later work. Richard Hannay Robert Donat, a Canadian rancher on vacation in England, attends a music hall performance by "Mr. Memory" Wylie Watson; in the midst of the show, shots ring out and Richard flees the theater. Moments later, a terrified woman Lucie Mannheim begs Richard to help her; back at his room, she tells him that she's a British spy whose life has been threatened by international agents waiting outside. Richard is certain that she's mad until she reappears at his door in the morning, near death with a knife in her back, a map in her hand, and muttering something about "39 Steps." Discovering that a group of thugs are indeed waiting outside, Richard slips away and takes the first train to the Scottish town on the dead woman's map. Richard learns that he's now wanted by the police for murder, and he must find a way to clear his name. He begins trying to do so with the help of a woman he meets en route, Pamela Madeleine Carroll, who serves as his unwitting assistant, even after she tries to turn him in. The 39 Steps was later remade in 1959 and 1978 -- both without Hitchcock's participation.
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Special Features

Biographies; Filmographies; Photo gallery; Interactive menus; Jump to scene; Dolby sound; PC/MAC compatible
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps firmly established the director's reputation beyond the boundaries of the British isles, but it did far more than that: it was also the film where Hitchcock's reach and grasp as a filmmaker began growing by leaps and bounds. He'd already made three excellent thrillers (The Lodger (1926), Blackmail (1929), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)) that had attracted considerable attention in America, but The 39 Steps, as a piece of screencraft, assembled all the best elements in those widely scattered successes (spread across eight years of his career) between two covers in a way that riveted audiences and industry observers. It played exactly the way that British movies weren't supposed to, lively and piercingly funny, rather than stodgy and dignified; it was almost as much a comedy as a thriller, which was something new in any country's cinema; and it was almost as much a battle of the sexes in the jousting of its two leads (Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll) as it was a quest by the hero to prove his innocence of a murder charge; by the end of the movie, we want to see not only how Richard Hanney (Donat) proves his innocence but also how he and Pamela (Carroll) manage to stay together. Not coincidentally, The 39 Steps was also the first of his major films in which Hitchcock ripped up and threw away most of the contents of the underlying source (a novel by John Buchan that had been a best-seller then and which has remained a perennially popular read ever since) -- he later followed this practice in his subsequent treatments of Josephine Tey's A Shilling For Candles (as Young and Innocent), Ethel Lina White's The Wheel Spins (as The Lady Vanishes), and Francis Beeding's The House of Dr. Edwardes (as Spellbound), among other literary properties. In the process, he struck a blow for the director as a creative voice in his own right, independent of and superior to the novelist (at least where actual screen adaptations were concerned), who might take one or two good ideas, a name or two, and perhaps a setting and a scene from a chapter and junk everything else, making it his own. In a time when producers and studios still occupied a place of cultural inferiority (even in their own minds) to the authors and publishers of the printed word, this was no small achievement, especially considering that it was done well and, thus, justified itself. So, in his own way, working within the thriller genre in The 39 Steps, Hitchcock helped open the way for virtually every major director who came after him.
All Movie Guide
Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps firmly established the director's reputation beyond the boundaries of the British isles, but it did far more than that: it was also the film where Hitchcock's reach and grasp as a filmmaker began growing by leaps and bounds. He'd already made three excellent thrillers The Lodger 1926, Blackmail 1929, and The Man Who Knew Too Much 1934 that had attracted considerable attention in America, but The 39 Steps, as a piece of screencraft, assembled all the best elements in those widely scattered successes spread across eight years of his career between two covers in a way that riveted audiences and industry observers. It played exactly the way that British movies weren't supposed to, lively and piercingly funny, rather than stodgy and dignified; it was almost as much a comedy as a thriller, which was something new in any country's cinema; and it was almost as much a battle of the sexes in the jousting of its two leads Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll as it was a quest by the hero to prove his innocence of a murder charge; by the end of the movie, we want to see not only how Richard Hanney Donat proves his innocence but also how he and Pamela Carroll manage to stay together. Not coincidentally, The 39 Steps was also the first of his major films in which Hitchcock ripped up and threw away most of the contents of the underlying source a novel by John Buchan that had been a best-seller then and which has remained a perennially popular read ever since -- he later followed this practice in his subsequent treatments of Josephine Tey's A Shilling For Candles as Young and Innocent, Ethel Lina White's The Wheel Spins as The Lady Vanishes, and Francis Beeding's The House of Dr. Edwardes as Spellbound, among other literary properties. In the process, he struck a blow for the director as a creative voice in his own right, independent of and superior to the novelist at least where actual screen adaptations were concerned, who might take one or two good ideas, a name or two, and perhaps a setting and a scene from a chapter and junk everything else, making it his own. In a time when producers and studios still occupied a place of cultural inferiority even in their own minds to the authors and publishers of the printed word, this was no small achievement, especially considering that it was done well and, thus, justified itself. So, in his own way, working within the thriller genre in The 39 Steps, Hitchcock helped open the way for virtually every major director who came after him. Bruce Eder
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/10/2004
  • UPC: 798622309822
  • Original Release: 1935
  • Rating:

  • Source: Westlake Budget
  • Time: 1:26:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Donat Richard Hannay
Madeleine Carroll Pamela
Godfrey Tearle Prof. Jordan
Peggy Ashcroft Margaret
Lucie Mannheim Miss Smith/Annabella
John Laurie John
Wylie Watson Mr. Memory
Helen Haye Mrs. Jordan
Frank Cellier Sheriff Watson
Jerry Verno Voyager
Peggy Simpson Young Maid
Miles Malleson Director of the Palladium
Gus McNaughton Voyager
Marianne Stone
Technical Credits
Alfred Hitchcock Director
Michael Balcon Producer
Charles Bennett Screenwriter
Ian Hay Screenwriter
Albert Jullion Production Designer
Bernard Knowles Cinematographer
Louis Levy Score Composer
Ivor Montagu Producer
Alma Reville Screenwriter
Joe Strassner Costumes/Costume Designer
Derek N. Twist Editor
Otto Werndorff Production Designer
Jack Whitehead Special Effects
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Chapter 1 [1:26]
2. Chapter 2 [5:22]
3. Chapter 3 [7:32]
4. Chapter 4 [4:30]
5. Chapter 5 [7:09]
6. Chapter 6 [6:22]
7. Chapter 7 [3:07]
8. Chapter 8 [1:57]
9. Chapter 9 [2:13]
10. Chapter 10 [3:05]
11. Chapter 11 [15:29]
12. Chapter 12 [16:14]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play Movie
   Scene Index
   Extras
      Biographies
         Alfred Hitchcock
         Robert Donat
         Peggy Ashcroft
      Filmographies
         Alfred Hitchcock
         Robert Donat
         Peggy Ashcroft
      Photo Gallery
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A reviewer

    The Criterion DVD of Hitchcok's THE 39 STEPS is vastly superior to any other edition. The print is pristine, the sound is very good and, all in all, one feels it might even look better than it did on the big screen in the 1930s. This is my favorite of the movies Hitchcock made in Britain. It actually comes very close in spirit to Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. Perhaps movies like these could only plausibly have been made in the age of censorship. You wait for the couple thrown together to begin falling in love. This is a fun, suspenseful adventure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted July 17, 2010

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