If you love Alfred Hitchcock’s masterly and enduring 1935 film, which starred Robert Donat, not only are you in possession of excellent taste, but you are also in good company. In today’s Guardian, Saptarshi Ray writes about his favourite film:
The 39 Steps was my first Hitchcock film. I saw it when I was about 13, with a movie-buff uncle on a battered old black-and-white TV set, on a trip to India. Sitting in the clammy heat and darkness that night, praying there wouldn’t be a power cut as we were transported from West Bengal to the Scottish moors, it was the first time I grasped the full extent of cinema’s escapist power …
… Then, of course, there’s the chemistry between the leads. According to Donat’s biography, Hitchcock “accidentally” lost the key after handcuffing him to Carroll at their first rehearsal. After a few hours, during which the director was said to have become mawkishly obsessed with how the pair would deal with bathroom visits, Hitchcock “found” the key. As a result, the leads became more relaxed in each other’s presence. Their heat may not quite match Bogie and Bacall, but they’re a fine pair on-screen, and so engaging that they are doomed to fall in love.
Watching The 39 Steps is a bit like entering a vintage jewel-encrusted lift once built for a maharajah: what will you admire first? The ornate ivory buttons, the solid gold doors edged with marble, the engineering that makes it capable of such speed – or will you simply enjoy the ride? For every breathless plot twist there’s a camera shot or angle to appreciate. Just like the Forth Bridge and its dramatic Scottish surroundings, this film proves ingenuity and beauty can make easy bedfellows – whether handcuffed together or not.
To read the full article, click here.
And if you happen to be spending Hogmanay (aka New Year) in Edinburgh this year, The 39 Steps is included in the Filmhouse Cinema’s An Edinburgh New Year season, and is showing on Friday 30 and Saturday 31 December. Tickets can be booked online or by calling 0131 228 2688, and discounts are available (if you see any three (or more) films in this season, get 15% off. See all six films in this season and get 25% off).