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  1. #1
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    I know I'll be shot for this, but my wife and I just watched the Kenneth More version of THE 39 STEPS and damned if we didn't like it. A lot. I can't claim it's better than the original. There's nothing comparable to the touching Peggy Ashcroft scenes, and I'm amazed that Frank Harvey received sole screenplay credit, since he obviously based much of his script on Charles Bennett and company. And Ralph Thomas is no Hitchcock. Much of the movie is a bit sloppy. But it's fun. While Taina Elg doesn't match Madeleine Carroll, she's much better than you'd think from reading the critics. And this version benefits enormously from shooting in colour and getting out of the studio into all those scenic locations like the Forth Bridge. The biggest plus, though, is More himself. The man is so utterly charming and believable that I really think he matches Robert Donat. Heresy, I know, but there you are.



    However, I noted a couple of logic problems, and perhaps someone here can help out. Hannay tells Nannie that he also works for the government in "political warfare." He doesn't elaborate, but he knows all about the missile system, etc. What on earth is that about? Are we supposed to think he's an MI6 undergover agent who represents British interests and topples governments in the Third World? But that would mean he's no longer an ordinary fellow swept up in a dangerous plot. All he has to do is call his own government contact. Yet the movie plays out as if he is a man completely alone. That didn't work for me at all.



    After Nannie is murdered, he starts to dial the police, only to be interrupted by the ringing phone. Thereafter, he makes no attempt to call for help, but goes off to Scotland. Why did he change his mind about the police?



    Now here's the big one: The bad guys (presumably Duncan Lamont and Michael Goodliffe) kill Nannie in Hannay's flat. They must know he's there, in the kitchen. But they leave and spend the night keeping watch on his place. Why? Why not kill him, too. at the same time? This is also a flaw in the Hitchcock version, if I remember, but perhaps they covered it better...

  2. #2
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    I agree - I have a fondness for the Kenneth More version also. Nice to hear I am not the only one.

  3. #3
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    I enjoy all 3 versions [Robert Powell's as well]. In fact, I'd say it is the only film where I've got almost equal pleasure from not one but two remakes.



    You're right about More - always charming.

  4. #4
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    I liked the Kenneth More version too,though the Robert Donat one still stands out for me. I didn't like the Robert Powell remake,even though it was supposed to be more closer to the original book. On the whole,I found it dull.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B:)

    PS Why has the forum changed colour overnight?

  5. #5
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    All three are maybe, equally great in my eyes. Each one has a few set-pieces that make them stand out from the rest.



    I do like the shot in the Hitchcock version where Mr. Memory goes: "The 39 Steps is a ..." - I got shivers watching that bit. Hitch moving his camera forward to build the emotion. Just about perfect.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: UK Merton Park's Avatar
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    I happened to watch the Kenneth More version just a few weeks ago, again, for the umpteenth time, still a very watchable yarn. Supporting cast were excellent, especially Brenda De Banzie as always. Directed with a light touch, always on the move.



    Whilst I am a great Hitchcock fan, 1930's British films , for me, are a little too stilted and jaded, generally lacking the American touch and pace. The exception to the norm is The 39 Steps. Exciting edge of the seat stuff, a real adventurous thriller with a cracking pace. Outstanding film with a great performance by Robert Donat . A true British classic.



    Having lived in the Block of Flats that Hannay did during the 1970's, it's funny to see it circa 1936.

  7. #7
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    If i remember correctly there is a continuity error in the film. The Ford Consul driven by the baddies mysteriously becomes a Ford Zephyr at one point.

  8. #8
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    Hi All very interesting thread, I personally liked the Robert Powell version the best, there is some lovely dialogue between John Mills and Timothy West at the start and also between Robert Powell and Eric Porter when powell takes Eric porter to the house where he had been held captive.

    Regards Chris Bryan

  9. #9
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    I too like all 3 but The Kenneth More version is my fav.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: Scotland silverwhistle's Avatar
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    The Powell version retains the original period setting, which helps a lot.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: England Tom Bancroft's Avatar
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    Drat it! I only watched the Kenneth More version just a couple of days ago on TV (brilliant) and as someone particularly interested in cars of bygone days which appeared in British films, I have never noticed the alleged discrepancy re the Ford Consul becoming a Zephyr despite seeing this movie on numerous occasions. I shall be keeping my eyes peeled next time though!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: England Santonix's Avatar
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    I agree - I have a fondness for the Kenneth More version also. Nice to hear I am not the only one.
    You are certainly not the only one. As much as I admire the Hitchcock classic, it's the Kenneth More version that entertains me the most, I have all three versions and it is the one that gets my vote.



    It is one of the few remakes that really works and has lived in the shadow of the original for far too long.

  13. #13
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    The Kenneth More version is available on DVD.



    The Thirty Nine Steps DVD



    Nick

  14. #14
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    I enjoyed the More version. Has anyone noticed the link with Thomas' very similar Clouded Yellow? It's almost like a dry run for 39 Steps. Powell's version is one of my favourites from the 70s though Donat is still tops ... de de de de dah dah de de de de de, dum de dum de diddly dum de dum de dum de dum!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: UK aphra's Avatar
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    Slight digression. A play now at the Criterion Theatre in London called 'Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" recently won an award as Best New Comedy of 2006. It's directed by Maria Aitken and written by Patrick Marber, and is one of the most enjoyable evenings I have spent in the theatre for years. Four actors play over a hundred parts - there's even a personal appearance by Hitch in silhouette. This is a totally involving re-working of the Hitchcock film, done with enormous invention, wit and affection. I could not recommend it highly enough.

  16. #16
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    I remember being pleasantly surprised by the 1959 version. No classic but I like the colour photography of the Highlands and they could have lost the rather stupid sub plot innuendo with Reginald Beckwith - but the main thing is you get Kenneth More playing Kenneth More which is very reassuring. The thing I remember from seeing it first time around on TV was that it featured Andrew Cruickshank (Dr Cameron) in a small role - and also Bill Simpson (Dr Finlay) as a bridegroom boarding the train in Edinburgh.



    By the way for UK viewers - the Robert Powell version is on BBC2 on Sunday afternoon (18th March).

  17. #17
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    Is the Robert Powell version available on DVD?

  18. #18
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    All three film versions are available on DVD. Try searches for "39 Steps" and "Thirty Nine Steps" on Find-DVD.co.uk for the best prices. Or you could try eBay for second-hand copies.



    Nick

  19. #19
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    Slight digression. A play now at the Criterion Theatre in London called 'Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" recently won an award as Best New Comedy of 2006. It's directed by Maria Aitken and written by Patrick Marber, and is one of the most enjoyable evenings I have spent in the theatre for years. Four actors play over a hundred parts - there's even a personal appearance by Hitch in silhouette. This is a totally involving re-working of the Hitchcock film, done with enormous invention, wit and affection. I could not recommend it highly enough.
    I saw this at West Yorkshire Playhouse when it was touring prior to transferring to the West End and it was absolutely brilliant.



    Productions of this kind seem to be in vogue currently. I saw a version of The Importance of Being Earnest with only two actors (Wilde played for slapstick - not good) and a very good comedy version of The Hound of the Baskervilles with three actors which is touring as we speak.

  20. #20
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    I liked the Kenneth More version too,though the Robert Donat one still stands out for me. I didn't like the Robert Powell remake,even though it was supposed to be more closer to the original book. On the whole,I found it dull.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B:)
    Being closer to the book isn't necesarily a good thing. John Buchan was good with adventure, but (IMHO) couldn't write a coherent plot to save his life, which is why the explanation for what the Thirty-Nine Steps actually are changes every time there is a new film version.



    I recall the Robert Powell version being in the news at the time as it was the last ever Rank Films presentation.

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