Watched Jun 21, 2012
"Making a film means, first of all, to tell a story. That story can be an improbable one, but it should never be banal. It must be dramatic and human. What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out."
Alfred Hitchcock in Hitchcock - Francois Truffaut
A wonderful quote I found at the end of the chapter in which The 39 Steps is discussed. Truffaut points out that the plot weaknesses are not acknowledged, and to do so would be pointless and take away from the film.
This was my first time watching The 39 Steps, and not even close to my last. I'm already planning on picking up the new Criterion Blu Ray. I absolutely adored it, and have quickly moved it up into my top 10. Who knows, it might go higher yet.
Hitchcock created a really top-notch story, with immensely likable characters, and wonderful moments heavily influenced by the silent era. Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll are perfect together, probably one of my favorite duos. I loved their on-screen chemistry and banter.
The 39 Steps really highlights Hitch's masterful editing in the service of fantastic storytelling. There is the showy stuff, of course - the sequence with the discovery of murder, the silent shot of the housekeeper's scream, the cut to the train with whistle blowing - but in general, The 39 Steps is a masterclass in editing, creating a fast pace with no waste, and all the dull bits cut out.
There was also a fantastic sequence that I'm hoping I'm remembering correctly, I think I gasped out loud, and I really don't know how it was done, there had to be some trickery involved. I think it starts with a medium close-up of Donat and Carroll from inside a car, then the camera seems to swing out of the car and around into a long shot, all in one seemingly continuous take. Is that right? It took my breath away.
I haven't watched it again yet, but it's one of his films that are in the public domain, so I can check it out again soon, and you should too.