"one of the best movies ever made"
"brilliant classic suspense movie"
The 39 Steps
with Robert Donat and
A classic British mystery. The film provides both
suspense and comedy as a man is caught between the police and enemy
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 Buchan's 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 erotic/comic scene
removing her stockings whilst handcuffed to Donat) 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.
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