The best known of Hitchcock?s British films, this civilized spy yarn follows the escapades of Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), who stumbles into a conspiracy that involves him in a hectic chase across the Scottish moors?a ch... more »ase in which he is both the pursuer and the pursued. Adapted from John Buchan?s novel, this classic Hitchcock "wrong man" thriller encapsulates themes that anticipate the director?s biggest American films (especially North by Northwest), and is a standout among his early works.« less
"I just ordered the Criterion Hitchcock "set" which includes "The 39 Steps", a movie I've watched many times over the last 20 years, but NEVER in a form this crisp and well-transfered; it's been restored beautifully, and as with all the films("My Man Godfrey" and "The Lady Vanishes", to name two)that have been kicking around with duped, grainy, fuzzy prints for the last 60-some years that were FINALLY restored-it's almost like watching a new movie-even if you'd thought you'd memorized all the dialogue and action! There's just so much that's missed in a bad print. Here, we have Hitch at his finest....there just isn't a dull second in this film. It's really as sure-fire as any movie ever made, in terms of entertainment. I believe this too was Hitchcock's first huge breakout international hit, although happily for us, he didn't "go Hollywood" for another 3 years or so(and gave us the later "Lady Vanishes"-another Criterion must-have).One caveat: if you're like me(hopeless film buff), you often get these Criterions for not only the fantastic quality of the print but for the often illuminating audio tracks, usually provided by experts of one type or another; I've never quibbled with any of them before, but I have to say, don't expect Marion Keane's wall-to-wall droning to be worth it. There's generally two kinds of film "discussion"(not counting the sort where the actual director or actors gab, which we get with new films): the sort that's superb, like Rudy Behlmer's on "Adventures of Robin Hood"-an amalgam of film history, film technique, on-the-fly biographies of the actors you're watching, tidbits about the production locations, etc.etc.-nd then there's the OTHER kind:
film "semiotics". In other words, a commentator turns a smashing, hugely exciting and entertaining movie into a dull excercise in psychoanalysis. Virtually NOTHING is said about any of the particulars of "The 39 Steps" that isn't a parsing of the symbolism, the framing, that sort of thing. That stuff's there, of course, and I'll hand it to her that the speaker *does* mention Robert Donat's acting several times(it's excellent, of course!)-but you know, for all her blather about the poignancy of the scene of the Crofter's wife, you'd think that she might bother to tell us the actress' name(Peggy Ashcroft), the fact that this was one of her few films, that she was a huge stage star eventually, etc. The sort of thing that other audio tracks do so well."
Unreal Name | 07/10/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Diamond Entertainment's DVD of 39 Steps is VHS (taped off a broadcast-TV late-late show in SLP mode) picture quality. Very soft. This is not what DVD is meant for. I can only comment on the Criterion Collection version for comparison. Criterion picture quality=9 out of 10, Diamond picture quality=3 out of 10 (10 being best). Save your money."
BE CAREFUL - ONLY BUY CRITERION EDITION
Unreal Name | USA | 10/17/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"If you don't get the Criterion Edition, you will be getting an inferior transfer of this film: fuzzy images, fuzzier sound...yuck! The "bad" transfers include the one that Tony Curtis introduces.
Again, look for the Criterion Edition."
It doesn't get better than this
Unreal Name | 11/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I won't argue the merits of DVD or recount the plot--but I do want to say this is a practically perfect film; it has it all: humor, suspense, romance, action, intrigue. I think it is Hitch's best British film, with the "The Lady Vanishes" coming in second. All of the actors are great, the script is fantastic, and Hitch's direction is unparelleled: the way he moves the camera, uses cuts, and frames the shots. This is such a fun and well-made film I almost hate seeing some of his later Hollywood movies which may have featured superstars like Bergman and Grant, but were made under the constrictive thumb of either Selznick or Hollywood moral conventions. "The 39 Steps" is a flat out wonderful movie, and Hitchcock was an absolute master."
Go for the Criterion
Paul Anthony Hagl | Melbourne, Australia | 08/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Five stars in all might make me sound like an easy-to-please viewer, but I don't see how this DVD could be better. Criterion never disappoints, so if you're buying this film it's worth paying extra for this one. I believe the transfer is way superior and the extras go on longer than an awards night.
The documentary focuses on Hitchcock's British films, which aren't as widely seen these days and also a complete radio broadcast from 1937. Talk about diggin' up some material! I also enjoyed the commentary and that press book stuff. I'm not even sure I've seen it all. Actually, I'm still not sure what The 39 Steps really is exactly, but who cares? I pity people who don't watch certain movies because they're old and black & white. The reason people should see this film is because no one can make a film like this anymore. This is a great film, don't miss it."