The 39 Steps (1935)

39 steps poster 1935 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Classic Hitchcock oldie

Some might like more modern Hitchcock to his older stuff

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The 39 Steps

Studio:  Gaumont British Picture Corporation

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  June 6, 1935 (UK)/July 31, 1935 (USA)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Let me guess how many fingers you’re holding up!

Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is pulled into a web of mystery when a woman named Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim) he leaves a performance with is killed in his home after revealing she is a spy. Richard is forced to continue her mission despite being targeted a murder and finds he must discover the secret of the 39 Steps before he’s captured or England’s enemies discover it first.  When he becomes handcuffed to a woman named Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), Hannay must convince her of his innocence and stop the spies from getting the information overseas.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The 39 Steps was an adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. It followed Hitchcock’s original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and is considered one of Hitchcock’s early acclaimed films. It is in public domain and widely available, but a nice version has been released by Criterion (Criterion #56).


You always take me the nicest places!

The 39 Steps is classic Hitchcock with his type of typical story of a man on the run and a race against time (he previously used it in The Lodger in 1927). Hannay finds himself being pursued on trains and foot, by police and a very early helicopter. The story keeps a fast pace and constantly has great moments of close calls where Hannay barely escapes (my favorite being when is forced to impersonate a speaker).

The story also features a rather strange love story between Hannay and Pamela after they become handcuffed together.  Pamela of course falls in love with Hannay and realizes he’s been framed, but it feels weird since that it felt like he also had chemistry with the two other women in the story.


There’s Hitch!

The three developed women in the story is also a bit different for a Hitchcock film. First it seems like he’s going to be with the femme fatale Annabella who is a spy. Next he almost teams-up with the lonely farmer’s wife Margaret (Peggy Ashcroft) who is left to be beaten and abused.  Pamela definitely is the most normal of the women. She isn’t too outspoken and she isn’t too mousy. Of course, she’s blonde too which is Hitchcock’s M.O.

I like the look of the film and the advanced shooting for its time. Hitchcock was a master of his craft and The 39 Steps is just another example of his early ability to direct and advance the craft. If you can’t see the Criterion version of this film pick-up one of the many multipacks of Hitchcock’s earlier works. For a low price and multiple great films, one of the packs is definitely worth the purchase for The 39 Steps alone. Hitchock followed The 39 Steps with Secret Agent in 1935.


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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