the 39 steps
dir. alfred hitchcock
Hitchcock’s 1935 spy-thriller is a significant improvement over his previous Man Who Knew Too Much in almost every element the former struggled with. The story is more intriguing and much better paced, the actors played more believable characters, and the beginnings of what would come to be known as classic Hitchcock elements begin to emerge: the tropes of characters (the innocent man hunted, the blonde heroine), the twisted conspiracy, and the distinct directorial style all come in full force.
“Have you ever heard of the 39 steps?”
“No. What’s that, a pub?”
After helping a woman elude men who are after her, Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is forced to run himself, traveling from London to Scotland in an attempt to uncover the secret of “the 39 steps” before it’s too late.
Arguably one of Hitchock’s first all-around-great films, it’s a great place to start. It’s exciting and gripping from the start, and carries suspense well throughout.
Available to stream in high definition on YouTube.
Criterion Spine #56.