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#268- The 39 Steps

Quick recap: A man goes on the run after a woman is found dead in his apartment. However, the woman was actually a spy so not only does the man have to hide from the law, he is also tasked with taking down a bunch of villain spies out to steal information.

Fun (?) fact: The sheep that were brought in for one of the scenes ate up the plants and bushes and the crew had to keep replacing them. Sheep are going to do what sheep do.

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Surprisingly, no one said ‘by jove!’ in this movie.

My thoughts: Seeing as this is my 6th Hitchcock film, I now feel qualified to have an opinion of him as a director. And so far, I think I like him best when he isn’t doing horror. It’s almost comforting to watch his films, knowing that even when this movie was made in 1935, Hitchcock had his trademarks set up: a man falsely accused, a MacGuffin, a director cameo, stairs. It’s all there. At the same time, each film is wildly different from the rest and seeing as this one was all about spies, I was fascinated even more than I normally am.

The character Hanney, the man on the run from the law, is one of my favorite elements of the film. When the movie opens, he’s just a regular guy, maybe hoping to get some action from this random woman who enters his life. But when she’s murdered by an evil spy ring, he gets thrust into the spy life. Throughout the movie, he never really does anything like a stereotypical spy and yet he has enough wits about him to stay one step ahead. In doing so, it made me root for him and want him to solve the mystery before the bad guys got to him first. It also surprised me how much I liked the character Pamela, who ended up handcuffed to Hanney, despite having no previous involvement with either side. She wasn’t just a dumb blonde and made her own decisions, thank you very much.

Seeing as how this movie was made over 80 years ago, I don’t really feel like I’m spoiling it to say that the secrets The 39 Steps were trying to smuggle out of the country were housed in a man called Mr Memory. It was a huge surprise to me when this was revealed, but I also kind of felt bad because his act was a super lame party trick. His schtick was basically that he knew a ton of facts and the audience could shout out obscure questions for him to answer. I mean, considering there was no Wikipedia back then, I guess it’s cool, except how does anyone know if he’s telling the truth? Except if you already know the answer to the question you asked and then in that case, you are just as lame as this guy. Anyway. Just as Hanney figures out he is the key to the whole thing, Memory is shot, but not before divulging his secret to Pamela and him. As he takes his dying breath, Hanney and Pamela hold hands and it was a beautiful ending to actually a really good movie.

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Final review: 4/5

Up next: Happiness

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