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Cinema Quarterly (1935) - The Thirty-Nine Steps




The main plot of John Buchan's novel remains, with many of the individual situations, the Scottish setting and the hero, Richard Hannay; but the story has been thoroughly modernized and a light romantic element introduced. Alfred Hitchcock, with Ian Hay and Wyndham Lewis, have done much to translate speech into action, and the film from the first foot is action. He tells the story clearly and convincingly and the wildly melodramatic moments are in part offset by such well observed sequences as the Scottish political meeting, the Forth Bridge episode, and the discreetly managed scene in the inn bedroom. Robert Donat plays Hannay with an attractive spirit and humour. A blot on the film for Scotsmen is the unconvincing charge of meanness directed at a Scottish crofter.

F. H.