Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 89

Thread: The 39 Steps

  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: Europe Bernardo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    2,381
    Liked
    13 times
    The three versions of the 39 Steps are among my favourites. The first being Hitchcockian beautifully made with a cheerful, nay thrilling disregard for the book. Brit BW film making at its best. The second with expansive Kenneth Moore expansive locations in yes, expansive colour. It is fascinating to compare the two versions. The third tells the more correct story and Robert Powell portrays it well enough not to let Donat and Moore down. Three good thoroughly british ripping yarns.

    Bernardo

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    9,605
    Liked
    151 times
    I've noticed people have strong opinions on the virtues of all three. If I had to pick a favourite it would unsurprisingly be Hitchcock's; chiefly because of the interplay between Donat and Caroll, those little moments of droll Hitchcock humour and the B&W photography perfectly lends itself to injecting a feeling of tension.



    Robert Powell's stint as Hannay I found surprisingly good and perhaps my second favourite, but like Kenneth More's '59 appearance the film just screams 'Rank'. (the production company and no Freudian slip intended )

  3. #3
    Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    13
    Liked
    0 times
    Surely the '35 Hitchcock is the superior version! For me, it's pace, originality and style place it way above the rest, whose remaining enjoyment (as Bernardo says) comes from the "great yarn" of Buchan's adventure. It's interesting to note how the '78 version (alone)attempts to recreate the period, and narrative, of the book, yet now shows so much of its own time and thus is somehow more dated than the "timeless" original. The Big Ben finale seems very cod-Hitchcock too! Still, what would the yanks have done to it?

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    792
    Liked
    0 times
    There are some interesting parallels with the Hitchcock STEPS and other films he made in America. SABOTAGE has the wrongly accused hero, handcuffed to the girl, escape on a bridge, train journey (even be it a road train), handed over to the law by the baddies and NORTH BY NORTHWEST has similar veins. Both SABOTAGE and NORTH BY NORTHWEST have climactic endings on national monuments which then turns up in Don Sharps STEPS. Strange that Buchan wrote other Hannay novels but they only film The 39 Steps. I like all three versions but Ralph Thomas's (nice to see it is out soon on DVD) just pipping it. Only because of the scene when the stagehand says "your on next Mr.Memory" as if he would forget. Greatttt stuffff!

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    211
    Liked
    0 times
    My favourite is the Hitchcock version (natually!), but I have a soft spot for the Ralph Thomas version. I re-watched it a few months ago and found it very entertaining. The colour was so attractive, while More matched Donat as Hanney.



    Not very found of the '70's version, even though it's a more faithful telling of the story (Thomas's movie was more a Hitchcock re-make than a proper adaption). The scenes on Big Ben at the end fatally remind's me of Will Hay's 'My Learned Friend' and always makes me smile!

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Posts
    129
    Liked
    0 times
    I have to agree with the votes in favour of the Kenneth More version, glorious colour with a leading man at the peak of his powers.



    So much so that last year myself and my family went on a 80 mile detour to stand on the bridge in Killin, where Mr Hannay met "Lowrey, the names Lowrey" if you remember the shepherd.



    To make the visit/moment complete I got my six year old son to recreate his lines making a video moment complete



    I know I'm sad !!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    9,605
    Liked
    151 times
    Stairway to heaven



    The Thirty-Nine Steps began as a cheap thriller, but its appeal has lasted nearly a century. Now Hollywood is remaking it once more. Geoffrey Macnab reports



    Friday January 16, 2004

    The Guardian



    John Buchan was ill in bed when he first had the idea for The Thirty-Nine Steps. "You and I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the "dime novel," and which we know as "the shocker" - the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible," he told his friend, Thomas Arthur Nelson. Writing his own "shocker", he added, was his way of passing the time as he lay convalescing in the winter of 1914.

    Given Buchan's debt to US "dime" fiction, it's fitting that an American is now set to make a new screen adaptation of his ripping yarn. Robert Towne, the Oscar-winning writer of Chinatown and Mission: Impossible II, is the unlikely choice to direct the latest version of Buchan's novel.



    "It's not much of an exaggeration to say that all contemporary escapism begins with The Thirty-Nine Steps," Towne declares. This sounds like wilful Hollywood hyperbole, but Towne has a point: James Bond, Simon Templar and countless other insouciant action heroes on screen and in books owe a very obvious debt to Buchan's Richard Hannay.



    Even if Buchan was inspired by American prototypes, Hannay remains a distinctively British creation. He was reputedly partly modelled on Field Marshal Lord Ironside of Archangel, a master of disguise renowned for his derring-do in South Africa at the turn of the century. Intriguingly, Buchan's biographer Andrew Lownie speculates that Hannay might also be partly based on Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement and a symbol of hoary old British imperialism.



    Whatever else, Buchan's Hannay is the archetypal gentleman adventurer. When we first encounter him in The Thirty-Nine Steps, he is a 37-year-old mining engineer who has just returned to the "old country" after many years away in Africa. It is the summer of 1914 and he is "pretty well disgusted with life". He has a hankering for excitement and finds London enervating - "as flat as soda water which has been standing in the sun". When Scudder, an American from Kentucky, tells him a lot of "queer things" about a conspiracy to set Russia and Germany at loggerheads, he's rapt. He's even more intrigued by the revelation that Scudder is a British officer in disguise.



    Scudder is soon murdered and Hannay resolves to find out why. "I am an ordinary sort of fellow, not braver than other people," he explains, "but I hate to see a good man down, and that long knife would not be the end of Scudder if I could play the game in his place." Thus the plot is set in motion.



    The Thirty-Nine Steps rattles along at breakneck pace. Buchan's great trick is his deadpan approach to the most outlandish subject matter. Nothing daunts Richard Hannay. His understatement and laconic humour help iron over the many improbabilities in the plotting.



    What's bound to stick in the craw of most modern readers, however, is the casual anti-semitism that runs through the novel. Early on, Scudder tells Hannay that "the Jew-anarchists" are behind the plot to pit the Russians and the Germans against each other. He refers to "little white-faced Jews in bath chairs with eyes like rattlesnakes" as the men who are "ruling the world". Scudder may be paranoid and delusional, but Hannay doesn't show any sign of offence or even surprise at this warped analysis of world politics.



    Unsurprisingly, none of the screen adaptations have included Scudder's ravings. "If we had tried to use Buchan's book literally, we would not have had a film at all. For one thing, it's thoroughly anti-semitic and no one would get away with that," Robert Powell admitted when he was starring as Hannay in 1978.



    Hitchcock's version, by common consensus the best of the Thirty-Nine Steps films, excises not only the anti-semitic rants but also large chunks of the plot. The action is updated from 1914 to the mid-1930s. Hannay is made into a Canadian. Hitchcock introduces a music-hall performer called Mr Memory who holds the key to the riddle of "the 39 steps". Throughout, he treats Buchan's thriller both as Boy's Own adventure and as battle-of-the-sexes comedy in the vein of the Myrna Loy/ William Powell Thin Man films. Charles Bennett's screenplay abounds in the risqué humour that Hitchcock so relished. There is no mention in Buchan's book, for example, of the two limerick-reciting salesmen on the way to Edinburgh to present the "new bodyline rubber panty corset". Nor is there any scene in which Hannay avoids detection by kissing a beautiful woman (Madeleine Carroll) he spots in an empty railway carriage.



    The film cranks up the sexual tension wherever it can. Most notoriously, Hitchcock contrives to leave Donat handcuffed to Carroll on a wet night in the Scottish highlands (the first time he would ritually humiliate a glacial blonde onscreen.) The scene, Benny Green later recalled in the Daily Mirror, was "a source of considerable lecherous sentiment" to an entire generation of schoolboys, many of whom scurried out to buy or borrow Buchan novels. "Buchan got a reputation - which would surely have horrified him - of being a writer of hot stuff."



    In the public's mind, Hitchcock's movie and Buchan's book have become as intimately entwined as Donat and Carroll in handcuffs on the moors. No subsequent film-maker has been able to escape Hitchcock's shadow. When the Rank Organisation decided to make a second Thirty-Nine Steps in the late 1950s, its point of reference was the 1935 film as much as the 1915 novel. Unfortunately, Kenneth More was a tweedier and far less dashing Hannay than Robert Donat, while director Ralph Thomas (best known for his Doctor in the House comedies) treated the material in ho-hum and rather stolid fashion. "If you can forget the Buchan novel, you may find the film satisfactory in a second-rate way," concluded the Observer's CA Lejeune.



    The 1978 version was even more harshly criticised. Set in 1914, it at least ended on a spectacular note, with Robert Powell's Hannay dangling, Harold Lloyd-style, from the arms of Big Ben, trying to stop a bomb killing the Greek prime minister in the House of Commons below.



    The latest Thirty-Nine Steps has been gestating for a very long time. Back in the late 1990s, Warner Bros tried to make it. Now Carlton, which owns the underlying rights, has taken over the development duties. Towne has spent over five years trying to bring The Thirty-Nine Steps back to the screen. In writing his screenplay, he will be able to draw on the three earlier movies (all in Carlton's library) as well as Buchan's novel for inspiration. No one knows whether he is planning a present-day action-adventure along Mission: Impossible lines or a faithful adaptation set in the Edwardian era, but just as long as he doesn't turn Hannay into a Californian beach bum, the ITV bosses promise they will leave him to his own devices.



    "I don't propose to tell him what to write or how to write it," Carlton International's chief executive Rupert Dilnott-Cooper says. "But clearly we are very mindful of the original ... I am sure that anything he writes will be very respectful of the original work." Towne's script is due for delivery in the autumn. Whatever tack he takes, one prediction can be safely made: when people think of The Thirty-Nine Steps, the first image that springs to mind will still be of Madeleine Carroll and Robert Donat in handcuffs, on the run across the Scottish moors.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    4,515
    Liked
    243 times
    Having just seen 39 Steps again with Kenneth More

    noticed Susan Stranks(Magpie) and Carol White as the schoolgirls in the railway carriage and also an uncredited Peter Vaughan as one of the policeman searching the train who has a small speaking part( the carriage kiss)

    Still a good film no matter how old it gets or as often I see it.

    Freddy

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    9,605
    Liked
    151 times
    Weren't they 39 harbour steps used by enemy agents to flee the country?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    4,515
    Liked
    243 times
    The Thirty-Nine Steps

    By John Buchan



    CHAPTER TEN

    Various Parties Converging on the Sea





    A pink and blue June morning found me at Bradgate looking from the Griffin Hotel over a smooth sea to the lightship on the Cock sands which seemed the size of a bell-buoy. A couple of miles farther south and much nearer the shore a small destroyer was anchored. Scaife, MacGillivray's man, who had been in the Navy, knew the boat, and told me her name and her commander's, so I sent off a wire to Sir Walter.



    After breakfast Scaife got from a house-agent a key for the gates of the staircases on the Ruff. I walked with him along the sands, and sat down in a nook of the cliffs while he investigated the half- dozen of them. I didn't want to be seen, but the place at this hour was quite deserted, and all the time I was on that beach I saw nothing but the sea-gulls.



    It took him more than an hour to do the job, and when I saw him coming towards me, conning a bit of paper, I can tell you my heart was in my mouth. Everything depended, you see, on my guess proving right.



    He read aloud the number of steps in the different stairs. 'Thirty- four, thirty-five, thirty-nine, forty-two, forty-seven,' and 'twenty- one' where the cliffs grew lower. I almost got up and shouted.



    We hurried back to the town and sent a wire to MacGillivray. I wanted half a dozen men, and I directed them to divide themselves among different specified hotels. Then Scaife set out to prospect the house at the head of the thirty-nine steps.





    Nice one DB7

    The book itself is a good read, 102 pages, very boys own adventure, some terms which would offend the pc brigade and no women involved.

    Strange though geographically the names are fiction, with Bradgate being in the Midlands and prevented me from putting Cock on the search engine.



    Freddy

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Posts
    1,386
    Liked
    4 times
    Wasn't the bridge in the 1930's version the Forth Railway Bridge?



    Couple of other comments:



    The 39 steps being a spy ring was a device used by Hitchcock's scriptwriters.



    I agree that the Buchan novel is well worth reading - the same cannot be said, I am afraid, of the sequel Hannay book (or books? I'm at work at present and can't check how many or their titles



    I still think the Hitchcock version is by far the best.



    rgds

    Rob

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: England
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Posts
    594
    Liked
    4 times
    The Thirty-Nine Steps written in 1915 was the first in a series of five novels by John Buchan featuring the character Richard Hannay.

    The others were Greenmantle (1916), Mr Standfast (1918), The Three Hostages (1924) and Island Of Sheep. I don't think that any of the others were filmed.

    A few years ago Penguin Books brought out an ominbus edition containing all five but I don't know if it still available.

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    144
    Liked
    0 times
    One never quite knows about these things, but most of what I've heard and read suggests that Charles Bennett was responsible for virtually all the new material in THE 39 STEPS, especially the significant stuff like Mister Memory, the ring of spies, the heroine, the farmer's wife, etc. Ian Hay contributed only dialogue. Hitch's wife, Alma Reville, shares credit for co-adaptation, but I've never heard that she participated in construction or original ideas. Bennett said in one interview that her work was officially in the area of "continuity," and that her salary was a way of getting more cash into the Hitchcock bank account. He may have been biased, of course. If anyone's read the recent book about Alma, perhaps they can throw some light on her contribution to THE 39 STEPS...

  14. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    144
    Liked
    0 times
    I love 'The 39 Steps' (1935) and have watched it countless times. I envy those who are seeing it for the first time in their lives. I've even watched it twice this week.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Posts
    1,386
    Liked
    4 times
    I agree, Clinton - it's a truly great film



    rgds

    Rob

  16. #16
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    768
    Liked
    0 times
    (Bernardo @ Jun 23 2003, 07:45 PM)

    The three versions of the 39 Steps are among my favourites. The first being Hitchcockian beautifully made with a cheerful, nay thrilling disregard for the book. Brit BW film making at its best. The second with expansive Kenneth Moore expansive locations in yes, expansive colour. It is fascinating to compare the two versions. The third tells the more correct story and Robert Powell portrays it well enough not to let Donat and Moore down. Three good thoroughly british ripping yarns.

    Bernardo
    Rock on Barnardo! Couldn't agree Moore!!!!! (sic).

  17. #17
    Senior Member Country: UK image45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    578
    Liked
    0 times
    This thread needs to be woken up again like!

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: United States
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1,579
    Liked
    0 times
    Gulp. I have only seen the original and now am scrambling to locate the others! And Hollywood was going to do a remake from 2004?



    Gee - maybe the new Indy 4 script took over that precious studio time instead? At least I have a chance to study all three of these existing versions.



    Hitchcock and his blondes... hmmm... I was listening to Melanie Griffith recount a few of her mom's tales, and the next year, I got to hear 'mom' Tippi speak more directly. Pretty funny. Actually, the ones who might have the best tales would be Hitchcock's closest friends because they probably heard his tittering about all of Hitchcock's blonde ambitions. And while I've seen many unattractive humans on this planet, Hitch would certainly be one of those at the very top.



    And for Tippi? Grace Kelly? Janet Leigh? and all the others? My my my... "As long as you're shoppin', ya might as well look at the good stuff..."

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: England Santonix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    989
    Liked
    3 times
    I have all three versions of the film. I hardly ever watch the Robert Powell version I do watch the classic Hitchcock version from time to time, but for me the 1959 Kenneth More version wins hands down.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: UK Wee Sonny MacGregor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    696
    Liked
    4 times
    As a fan of the book and Buchan, I like all three versions. Can't some studio shed its creative bankruptcy and make a film of 'Greenmantle' or 'Mr Standfast - IMO both are superior novels to The 39 Steps.

Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. The Goose Steps Out
    By regentroad5 in forum Your Favourite British Films
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 26-02-12, 10:03 PM
  2. The ten steps
    By faginsgirl in forum General Film Chat
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 18-09-09, 11:14 PM
  3. The thirty nine steps
    By hankoler in forum Looking for a Video/DVD (Film)
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 28-07-09, 08:53 PM
  4. The 39 Steps
    By maddogindidog in forum Ask a Film Question
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 21-04-07, 08:04 PM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts