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The 39 Steps (1935 version)

"Hitchcock's Masterpiece"

"one of the best movies ever made"

"brilliant classic suspense movie"

The 39 Steps with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll

Review

A classic British mystery. The film provides both suspense and comedy as a man is caught between the police and enemy agents.

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 (Madeleine Carroll 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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