85 Min. | Mystery – Thriller | November 1935
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Staring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim
The 39 Steps Review: The 39 Steps is extraordinary in every conceivabe way. Anyone who doesn’t mind slightly old, black-and-white movies will be enraptured by this Hitchcock classic, which was one of the first films to present sophisticated and witty banter between two ill-matched characters. What makes it even more extraordinary is that it virtually totally alters the source material, yet still comes across as a work of ingenuity. The story of The 39 Steps, concerns Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) a handsome young man who owns a London flat. A mysterious woman comes to him for help, claiming that she is being hunted by some spies. Hannay helps her, but when she is murdered in his home it look like he is to blame, and he has to go on the run from the police. En route, he has many adventures as he flees across the South Scotland landscapes, including being handcuffed to a woman (Madeline Carroll) who happens to think he is guilty of the murder.
There is no director in the history of the cinema who liked a good chase film better than Alfred Hitchcock. This one’s a beauty with a wrongly accused of murder Robert Donat, running from London to Scotland and back again to find some spies to clear his name. Along the way Donat picks up a lovely and first unwilling traveling companion in Madeleine Carroll who is arguably the first of his blonde heroines. Donat and Ronald Colman rivaled for roles somewhat, they seem always to be cast as the same type of characters. Of course Donat worked primarily in the UK and on stage while Colman was strictly a movie actor since the silent days. Colman is the only other guy who could have done this and other Donat parts. It’s a pity there are none like either of these guys around today.
This is splendid from the word “go”. It has enough memorable set pieces for a dozen films, its pace is invigorating, the plot is constantly turning up new surprises, and the performances are just about perfect. Hitchcock spent his career narrating tale of innocent men on the run (indeed, many consider it to be his “favourite” theme) and The 39 Steps is one of the very finest examples of that. Anyone interested in Hitchcock or cinema of the ’30s simply must, must, must see The 39 Steps.