The 39 Steps (1935)
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I noticed one big flaw. The two guys waiting outside managed to magic a knife into her back while she was inside. Now if they were in there and they wanted to kill the guy, as they did, why wouldn't they finish the job instead of running back outside to wait for him to come out?
One of Hitchcock's very greatest. Very witty and endlessly entertaining, with a perfect combination of humor and thrills.
The 39 Steps is pretty typical of Alfred Hitchcock's British period, with its higher proportion of (non-macabre) humor mixed in with thriller elements (the tone at times reminded me of The Lady Vanishes, for example). In this spy story, Robert Donat plays a man who by chance meets a spy. She is soon killed, but not before handing him her mission, vital to the United Kingdom's security. And then he's off to Scotland to carry it out, while simultaneously on the run from the authorities who think him her killer. There's practically a twist or reversal every few minutes from there, plenty of interesting characters along the way, and even a maverick shot or two. Flying by the seat of its pants, the movie almost feels like a serial that's been compressed into a single film, and a good one at that. I'm not entirely onboard with the way the climax is resolved, but it at least rewards the viewer's attention and makes sense of things that didn't seem all that relevant earlier on. In The 39 Steps, we definitely see some Hitchcock's mannerisms and obsessions taking shape.
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In 14 official lists
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This movie ranks #4 in BFI's Top 100 British Films
This movie ranks #5 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #13 in Time Out's The 100 Best British Films
This movie ranks #26 in Leonard Maltin's 100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century
This movie ranks #56 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #90 in Harvard's Suggested Film Viewing: Narrative Films
This movie ranks #92 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #119 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
This movie ranks #164 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #168 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #179 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #576 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #881 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #923 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life