HITCHCOCKED: “The 39 Steps” (1935)

31 01 2011

NOTE: The name of this 12-part series reviewing some of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest features has been changed from “Hallowed Hitchcock” to “Hitchcocked” for the sake of compactness.

Can you believe I’ve gone 18 years of living and 18 months of blogging without seeing a single movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock?  Of course I’ve heard of his mastery and know of his influence over the craft of filmmaking as we know it, but as a New Year’s resolution, I decided to stop knowing about him and finally experience him.

So here we are, at the first of a monthly series running through 2011 hitting 12 high points in the filmmaking career of Alfred Hitchcock.  Where to start?  Before he came to America and made the films that made him an icon, I decided to start with one of his smaller British movies, “The 39 Steps,” to see if I noticed him returning to his roots.

While I didn’t watch this movie and instantly proclaim Hitchcock a men among boys and a god among men, what I did see was good, precise filmmaking that sure did entertain and engage.  It’s less of a thriller, the genre most fans associate Hitchcock with, and more of a captivating mystery with none of the ridiculous bells and whistles Hollywood movies add on nowadays.

Over the course of four days, Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) runs all over England and Scotland trying to escape the police after being wrongfully accused of murder and a league of spies who believe he holds dangerous knowledge about them.  The innocent Richard winds up assuming multiple identities to keep himself safe from his pursuers.  It’s an well-plotted adventure that keeps the audience on its toes for the duration of the movie.

I don’t really have any context to put “The 39 Steps” into, but it sure does make me look forward to exploring some of Hitchcock’s more famous filmography.  If something this good isn’t one of his most popular directorial ventures, then I’m expecting some real winners coming up.




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