The 39 Steps Blu-ray Review
“The 39 Steps” is a solid early Hitchcock film.
The plot: After meeting a female spy (Annabella) who is on the run from killers, Richard Hannay finds himself becoming entangled in a dangerous plot involving something known as the 39 Steps. When Annabella winds up being murdered shortly thereafter, Richard is accussed of being the murderer. Now, Richard must go on the run himself to evade the law and those mysterious killers who want him dead. Can Richard prove his innocence and find out what exactly is going on or will his life be short lived?
Alfred Hitchcock may be best known for directing 50’s and 60’s classics like “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” and “North By Northwest,” but he made quite a few notable film early on in his career in the 30’s like “The 39 Steps.”
The film (which is based on the novel by John Buchan) is a leisurely paced, anti-climactic thriller that feels a bit long at 86 minutes. A lot of the film consists of Richard (and other characters) running around avoiding capture or death which can get a bit tiresome as one would imagine. Thankfully, the movie mixes things up a bit when Richard drags a woman (Pamela) into the messy situation. Their scenes together provide a much needed spark for the movie and it’s clear actor Robert Donat and actress Madeleine Carroll have great chemistry together.
The real star of ‘Steps,’ however, is Alfred Hitchcock himself. His brilliant storytelling and directing skills are certainly on display here as he creates plenty of atmospheric, creative, and suspenseful scenes. Whether the action takes place on a train or in the Scottish country side, Hitchcock always manages to engage the viewer in a unique fashion.
Summary: Despite its flaws, “The 39 Steps” is still worth seeing.
The film (which is presented in 1.33:1 1080p) may not look flawless, but this is certainly the best print to date. The hi-def clarity is quite noticeable here (especially when you can see each individual face in crowd shots) and that’s worth picking up this disc for alone if you’re a Hitchcock enthusiast. However, the print is also littered with flickers, scratches, and wavy lines that may be distracting to some viewers.
The Mono track may not be the best around, but it’s serviceable. The dialogue does suffer from being a bit faint and mumbly at times which will require you to crank up the sound levels.
* Another snazzy Criterion booklet featuring photos and an essay by David Cairns.
* “Lux Radio Theatre Presents The 39 Steps”- Always love to see radio dramas included on home video releases. An incredibly underrated medium.
* “Production Designs”- Image gallery.
* “Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock”- A TV interview between Hitchcock and Mike Scott. Hitchcock talks about everything from “The Lodger” to silent films. Well worth watching.
* “The Borders Of The Possible”- Leonard Leff narrates a featurette about the film’s history. Pictures, footage and audio clips are included throughout.
* Audio clips of the famous Hitchcock-Truffaut interview.
* “Hitchcock: The Early Years”- A British documentary about his early life, career, and films.
*Commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane. Feels like a scripted commentary. Informative, but robotic.
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