Sunday, February 21, 2010

Man on the run searches for 'The 39 Steps'

The 39 Steps (1935)
Starring: Roger Donat and Madeleine Carroll
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Richard Hannay (Donat) becomes drawn into a spy ring and is innocently accused of murder after a British counterspy is killed in his apartment. He is now on the run, and he must make it to an isolated part of Scotland so he can discover the secret of the 39 Steps, blow open the spy ring, and prove his innocence. There's just one drawback: He's handcuffed to Pamela (Carroll) who wants to see him captured by the police.

"The 39 Steps" is one of Hitchcock's earliest spy thrillers, and it is very, very good. It's got some expertly staged scenes where great tension arises either from the main character knowing he's about to be discovered any moment, if just the other people in the scene notice what he's seen, or from the viewer being in on secrets that none of the characters know. There are also some great moments of expectation reversals and unexpected plot-twists.

This is one of Hitchcock's best movies, and I highly recommend it to any lover of classic films. (I continue to be amazed at how many film buffs haven't actually seen this one!)

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