Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, John Buchan (novel)
Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle, Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie, Helen Haye, Frank Cellier, Wylie Watson
Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” plays as a movie trying to break out of the constraints of its times. It is an example of how Hitchcock needed the power and scope of Hollywood to jump the cinematic art forward in just the way he did after his marriage with Tinsletown. It is a movie that bursts at its cinematic seams for greater production value and a leap forward in storytelling for the format.
As is often the case with Hitch, he unsettles his audience with his opening images. A man buys a ticket at a box office and the next few shots are those of feet. Even the purchase of the ticket fails to show us a face or even a torso of the man we are following into a theater. Without seeing any faces and with a sequence of feet walking this way and that, we are immediately placed into the mindset of a sort of chase going on. And yet, we have no notion of who is being chased, or why, or who is doing the chasing. The inside of the theater is a scene of a degree of chaos.