The Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival: The 39 Steps

I’m just gonna jump around randomly through his films, and I’ll probably eventually do other directors.

If you were to ask me, which you haven’t, but having clicked on this thread you are obviously willing to be subjected to my opinions anyway, Alfred Hitchcock is the greatest filmmaker that has ever lived. If you disagree, get over it; this is my thread.
The Thirty-Nine Steps. This film is a foreshadowing of what is to come in “North By Northwest,” though this film is more subtle and atmospheric.

As his career progressed, his comedy became more subtle and dark, but here it doesn’t stop. You still have to be pretty sharp to catch most of it, but it isn’t as inacessible as in Psycho or The Birds. “Please gentleman, you’re not at home!” “Oh, a whole flock of detectives!”

Although not his first use of the MacGuffin, it is used to astounding effect here. The cinematography is also excellent; the chase across the moors being the highlight.

Overall an outstanding effort, and a sign of things to come.

And one of the early instances of Hitchcock’s trademark use of stairways as locations for important scened (in this case, where Madeleine Carrol realizes Donat is telling the truth).

How about the scene early on in the movie when the housekeeper discovers the body, and her scream fades into a train entering a tunnel? Excellent!

The scene where they’re still handcuffed and have rented a room and are trying to get their soggy clothing off. I died laughing. One of the most brilliant sight gags ever.

This is, by far, my favourite of the British Hitchcocks (although The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) is a close runner-up. All of the Hitchcock trademarks are evident here: an innocent man accused, a feisty blonde, trains and chases.

Probably my favourite scene is right near the beginning in Robert Donat’s apartment. He’s subletting from a friend so all of the furniture is covered in sheets giving it an empty, ghostly appearance foreshadowing Donat’s imminent flight. And only Hitchcock could wring such incredible tension from a ringing phone.

Oh, and ditto on the handcuff scene. Hilarious!

Agreeing with everyone so far, but it is missing the Hitchcock “mother” theme…

I need to add the comment that I got to spend an afternoon with Hitchcock in the spring of 1966, he visited University of Chicago film society when I was chairman. Wow.

Yes, it is missing the mother theme, but plenty were. Most of the british ones, in fact.

So, we can blame Torn Curtain on you?
Oh, and you rule.

The odd thing about The 39 Steps is that by the time the movie ends, we know almost nothing about the main character except his name and that he is Canadian.

That is the beauty of it.