The 39 Steps

  • 1935
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Spy

Along with THE LADY VANISHES, one of Hitchcock's best British films, and a prototype for so much of what would follow in his American career. For those who love a grand spy mystery, a wild chase, and a harrowing portrait of an innocent man struggling to prove his innocence while the world turns inexplicably against him, THE 39 STEPS is ideal. Richard Hannay...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

Rating:

Along with THE LADY VANISHES, one of Hitchcock's best British films, and a prototype for so much of what would follow in his American career. For those who love a grand spy mystery, a wild chase, and a harrowing portrait of an innocent man struggling to prove his innocence while the world

turns inexplicably against him, THE 39 STEPS is ideal. Richard Hannay (Donat) is on vacation in London when he meets a mysterious woman (Mannheim) who tells him of a spy ring which she is trying to crack. She doesn't know the identity of the masterspy, but does know that he is missing a portion of

the little finger on his right hand. She also cryptically mentions something about "The 39 Steps." Later she is murdered--before Hannay can learn anything more. His own life now in danger, Hannay flees to a town in Scotland which she has circled on a map, and sets out to find the man with the

disfigured finger. Along the way he meets Pamela (Carroll), who decides to assist him after the crooks handcuff her to him. An encounter with a memory expert proves to be the key to uncracking this corker.

This is one of the best films of its genre and it richly displays Hitchcock's complete and playful mastery of the language of filmmaking. The handcuffing sequence (which still influences films today, e.g., the remake of D.O.A.) is one of the cinema's greatest. Hitch also has great fun with the

sound bridge linking a screaming woman with a train whistle, and the final assassination attempt recalls THE BIRTH OF A NATION. Carroll makes for an appealing heroine and Donat brings his oddly wispy quality to the man on the run. He looks curiously androgynous in this film; the oh-so-trim

mustache and his lilting voice add a vulnerability to his character which distinguishes it from the run-of-the-mill hero. Tearle is splendid, as is Watson in his most famous role, but who we really like are Peggy Ashcroft and John Laurie. This gifted stage actress and this striking, reliable actor

of many films lend something intense to the married couple Hannay encounters while on the run. Ashcroft is extremely moving as a woman strangled in her marriage and home life, desperately grateful for whatever the strange Hannay may bring into it. Scenes such as this linger in the memory as long

as the more typically Hitchcockian setpieces, and it does credit to the master director's versatility. (It somehow seems more his style that he actually handcuffed Carroll and Donat on the set one day to get them used to their scenes together...he of course then vanished from the set!)

Cast & Details See all »

  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Along with THE LADY VANISHES, one of Hitchcock's best British films, and a prototype for so much of what would follow in his American career. For those who love a grand spy mystery, a wild chase, and a harrowing portrait of an innocent man struggling to pr… (more)

Show More »

Trending TonightSee all »