Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The List: The 39 Steps (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1935)

This is out of order, but I had to watch this today for my London study abroad prep class, as part of the "history of British cinema" - a snapshot of British film in the 1930s. So I figured I might as well do an entry about it. The whole "chronological order" thing was kind of a pipe dream anyway.

Anyway, what struck me most about this fun little early Hitchcock thriller was how much Robert Donat (the lead) seemed like a youngish Clark Gable. In fact, I thought maybe he was a youngish Clark Gable... such is the depth of my ignorance of early film. So yeah, I was fairly tired this morning when I watched this (first day of summer school, don'tcha know), but basically Robert Donat aka "Richard Hannay" encounters a beautiful but enigmatic young female spy who is killed, and then spends the rest of the film being hunted down after being accused of her murder. Eventually one skeptical woman is forced along for the ride, and later learns the truth and helps him fight for his freedom.

It's fun to see this kind of old-school spy thriller, even though it's rather pedestrian by today's standards. I am curious what compelled UM's committee to choose this particular Hitchcock as required viewing, when gods know he's done plenty of worthy stuff. There is of course other Hitchcock on the list, too. But I forget which ones. I guess you can never get enough Hitchcock. But this is not one of my favorites of his. Whatever.

The point of watching it for this particular class is to see what Hitchcock's (and others') films were like before he (and they) came to America. I, for one, never even realized he was British. Whoops.

P.S. This entry was way longer than I'd planned. If I wrote this much about all 200 of these, I'd go nuts. This was supposed to be just a paragraph. So expect that much in the future.



Blogger Glenn said...

Aah, one of my very favourite films ever, plus my third favourite Hitchcock after Psycho and Rear Window.

This film is very understandable as a chosen film for your project. It's very famous and more of a classic than many of the others films he made around that time (Blackmail, Sabotage - even though they are quite good too). Although you may also wanna check out The Lady Vanishes, which is another justifiable classic.

11:06 PM  
Blogger adam k. said...

This one was both for both History of British Cinema (as an example of Hitchcock's old work when he was still in Britain) and The List of 200 Films.

I thought it was rather boring until he finally got handcuffed for the girl. It felt like it took forever for that to finally happen, and before that, there seemed to be no real point of connection/relationships going on. It had its moments, but I didn't really see what the fuss is about, overall. Though it's apparently considered quite the classic.

Of course, I was rather tired while seeing it. It's not a very good idea to make students watch a film everyday at 10am, imho.

12:05 AM  
Blogger RC said...

i wanted to like the 39 steps. i only watched it once, but i just couldn't get into it.

1:16 AM  

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