Day 22: The 39 Steps

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The next film in the 30 Day Film Challenge is Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. I’m a huge Hitchcock fan, so I decided to watch this film. I actually remember watching the trailer for this movie back in elementary school when I was watching Rear Window on a video cassette (yes, that long ago). I’m not sure why I never got around to watching The 39 Steps, considering it’s one of Hitchcock’s classics and has been adapted into a play. Thus, I decided not to wait any longer and to watch the movie today.

The film starts with the male protagonist Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) at a London music hall. He is watching a man called “Mr. Memory” demonstrate his remarkable recalling abilities when suddenly gun shots are fired and everything becomes chaos. As Richard tries to leave the venue, he bumps into Annabella Smith, a woman who appears frightened and convinces Richard to take her back to his flat. When they arrive at Richard’s flat, Annabella starts to act strange and tells Richard she is actually a spy who is being chased by assassins. She says she was the one who fired the gun shots at the music hall in an attempt to divert the assassins’ attention and escape. She explains she has uncovered a plot to steal British intelligence and mentions something about “The 39 Steps.” Richard dismisses her as talking nonsense and goes off to bed, only to be awakened by Annabella who falls upon him with a knife stabbed into her back and a map in her hand. Now accused of murder, Richard runs away from his flat with the map, hoping to find someone who can help clear his name and get him out of this mess. Along the way he runs into Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), a young woman who gets dragged into his business against her will.

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Hitchcock continues to live up to his title of master of suspense through The 39 Steps. The story itself takes many unexpected twists and turns – case in point: my mom watched the film with me and thought she had it all figured out, only to be entirely wrong. The plot’s development, especially its conclusion, is filled with surprises. Hitchcock is also a master of building suspense through his camerawork. Many times he only shows us half of what is going on, only to move onto the next shot, which surprises the audience with the entire truth. His use of shadows also adds to the film’s intensity – it seems as if there is always something unknown lurking in the dark, ready to jump out at audiences at the opportune moment.

Although The 39 Steps is a great film, there are definitely other Hitchcock films that are more memorable and exciting. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll in The 39 Steps

***Movie Info***

Title: The 39 Steps

Year: 1935

Country: United Kingdom

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Writer: Alma Reville, Charles Bennett, Ian Hay

Cast: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll

Run time: 1 hr 27 min

Rating: PG

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