If Number Seventeen supplied an effective skeleton for the Hitchcock thriller, The 39 Steps puts flesh on the bones to sensational effect. Already, The Man Who Knew Too Much had reintroduced Hitchcock to his first producer Michael Balcon and to writer Charles Bennett (Blackmail); now the team draws upon the inspiration of Scottish novelist John Buchan to construct a fast-moving adventure story that takes its wrongly-accused hero Richard Hannay from London to Scotland and back again, engaging en route with the twin challenges of an abrasive woman and the schemes of enemy agents . . .
Along with so much else, The 39 Steps is a response to the rise of political tension in Europe. No other film of the 1930s, from any source, continues to work as brilliantly on the big screen.
This film is screening as part of The Genius of Hitchcock: Part Three (February 2nd – 27th), which is part of a complete retrospective of the filmmaker’s work running until March 2013.