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39 Steps

A movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock

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My First Experience With Hitchcock

  • Sep 17, 2000
  • by
Pros: Cool concept; Good movie

Cons: Black & White (if you don't like that type of film); Grainy quality, even on the DVD

I'm taking a really cool class at UAA as an elective towards my MFA. Believe it or not, it's entitled "The History of Hitchcock," taught by Professor Ron Crawford. Every week, we watch a Hitchcock movie, then talk about the aspects of it. After all, Hitchcock is the master of suspense.

I have never sat through an entire Hitchcock film. Once, I attempted to watch The Birds when I was younger, but I freaked out and shut off the television. When this class was recommended to me, I signed up right away. I mean, what better way to face my fears of scary movies?

Fortunately for me, we're starting out slow. Last week, the class watched The 39 Steps, one of Hitchcock's first movies which was made in 1935. This film actually established Hitchcock's career, and paved the way for other suspense movies.

Since the movie is so old, not many people know of it. (On a side note, this movie was remade twice, in 1959 and 1978.) Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is a Canadian tourist in London. He meets a beautiful Russian spy, Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim), and tries to help her with the transport of international secrets to Scotland. Accused of murder, Hannay tries to make it to Scotland safely, but runs into one jam after another. He runs into Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) more than once, and they get attached. (You'll see what I mean if you watch the movie.) Both try to avoid the bad guys, but keeping track of the bad guys is difficult.

Here's a piece of advice: Make certain you pay attention to the very beginning of the film, even the music. You'll be surprised about what the "MacGuffin" is. What's the MacGuffin? According to Hitchcock, it's the thing necessary to the film that the audience doesn't need to know.

There's one thing that you do need to know: This is a great movie, even for a black and white film made in 1935. You should check this flick out, especially if you're an old movie buff.


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October 16, 2010
Interesting. You give this a good review but give it a 1 star, which is a mediocre rating.
About the reviewer
Candice Cain ()
I own the Candy Cain Travel Co. in Brookhaven, NY. I am a certified Professional Bridal Consultant with the Association of Bridal Consultants and my agency is certified by IATA and CLIA. I specialize … more
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About this movie


A classic British spy mystery, and one of Hitchcock's best, THE 39 STEPS is the story of an innocent man who struggles to prove his innocence. Robert Donat gets more than he bargained for when he brings home a mysterious woman (Lucie Mannheim) who confesses to be a British agent on the hot trail of a dangerous spy ring.

The woman is killed in Donat's apartment and he immediately finds himself on the run, burdened with the charge for her murder and the dangerous knowledge of her mission.

The film is distinguished by its pioneering use of contrapuntal sound effects, as well as the dynamism between Donat and his costar Madeleine Carroll.
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Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: 1935
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: Alpha Video (June 13, 2002)
Runtime: 1hr 21min
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