The 39 Steps
If you're like me, you've always wondered if The 39 Steps is very good. I knew nothing about it except that the Criterion version was very expensive . I bought the four dollar version on DVD figuring it would be better than VHS and cheaper than renting. The sound and picture quality were terrible and I had to back up occasionally to make out the dialogue. I was stunned at how fast paced and current it felt. The movie is essentially one long chase that is part romantic comedy. The lead actress is very sexy and there are some great scenes where Hitchcock uses sexual tension to perfection. If you like Hitchcock's formulas this one has all the elements ie..the wrongly accused man, the mcguffin, the sexy blond, and a bit of dark humor. The storytelling techniques are very conventional and that lends a certain familiarity to it wich when weighed with the fact that it was made in 1935, it's easy to see why Criterion chose to single it out as being important or influential. There is one shot where a car is driving across the country side. The camera is filming in through the side window. The camera hovers along side of the car keeping the same pace as the car. Then the camera floats around to the back and then stops in the road while we see the car continue to drive off into the horizon. I watched it three times and I can't tell how they did it as smoothly as they did. Amazing! I understand that Criterion has restored the audio and picture to digital perfection and included a documentary on Hitchcock before he went to Hollywood. This would be a great film to see in the theatre with a packed house but a few friends and a nice home theatre would do pretty well too, provided you find the restored version.