The 39 Steps (1935 – Blu-Ray)

“There are 20 million women in this island and I get to be chained to you”

In another step in my quest to watch all of the BFI’s top 100 British films, I come to number five, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller ‘The 39 Steps’.  I must declare a bias towards Robert ‘The definitive Jesus’ Powell’s 1978 version that I spent a rapt sunday afternoon watching as a nipper.  However I still enjoyed this less pacy but perhaps wittier version.  It feels like the earliest template for the classic Hitchcock film; innocent man is wrongly accused and relentlessly pursued across the land by shadowy forces, while still finding time for a spot of romance before ending with a tussle in/around or atop a famous landmark.  A formula that reached its zenith in 1959 with ‘North By Northwest’.

Robert Donat cuts an immaculately tailored profile as the dashing hero and Madeleine Carroll plays his love-interest/hostage.  As usual Hitchcock indulges his love of pushing sexual boundaries (For the time) in several scenes including an amusing discussion between two lingerie salesmen and the sight of Carroll slipping off her wet tights while closely handcuffed to Donat.  Sadly this Blu-Ray presentation disappoints, looking little better than my DVD version and the sound is atrocious.  While I certainly wouldn’t rank ‘The 39 Steps’ as the fourth best British film ever I did throughly enjoy it.

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