Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hitchcock Month - The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps (1935)
Starring Robert Donat
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
**Currently streaming on Netflix**

Although I'd never seen this film before, I have previous knowledge of the story behind The 39 Steps by both reading the novel upon which this flick is based and seeing the stage show that was based off of Hitch's movie.  The overly descriptive book was a bust, but the play was moderately successful, playing the story for slapstick laughs. Fortunately, the movie falls closer to the play than the book, proving to be a rather enjoyable 85 minutes, although certainly not among the best of Hitchcock's films.

Richard Hannay is having a lovely night out at the music hall when shots ring out in the theater and a mass exodus occurs.  In the melee, Hannay meets up with a woman, Annabella, whom he invites to his flat.  While there, she reveals to him that she is a spy and that she has been informed that someone will be selling British military secrets including information about something called "The 39 Steps" to overseas intelligence agencies.  The next morning, Hannay wakes up to Annabella stabbed in the back, forcing Hannay to go on the run to both avoid being arrested for Annabella's death and to elude the same men that killed Annbella.

Unlike the book, Hitchcock does play this flick slightly for comedy and he's helped by Robert Donat who is quite good as the charming and wrongly accused Hannay.  The film really does rest on his shoulders and he does a fine job.  Perhaps because of the light-heartedness of the whole affair, the film moves along at a brisk pace, never really lulling at any point.

That being said, The 39 Steps didn't really resonate with me one way or another.  It's a perfectly acceptable flick, but it does nothing to create any lasting impression.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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