The 39 Steps (1935)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The 39 Steps</strong> (1935)

(On TV, June 2018) On some level, The 39 Steps is a basic, almost unremarkable thriller, the likes of which we often see. But take a step back to look at the date of the film, and realize that Alfred Hitchcock has mastered the form years before WW2. It’s hard to fault The 39 Steps for executing a good recipe well: here we have themes familiar to Hitchcock (an innocent man being stuck in an impossible situation and going on the run to clear his name), using methods and techniques to crank up the suspense in ways that would be reused by countless other directors. There’s a close affinity with the first 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much here, competently handling material that would be overexposed later on. The result is that you can still watch The 39 Steps today and be engrossed in the story despite some weirdness such as the hypnotism material—it feels decently modern, and still enjoyable despite its flaws and limitations. It’s movies like this one that would bring Hitchcock to popular success, critical appreciation and Hollywood’s attention: he’d move to the United States a few years later.

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