A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
Richard Hannay is a Canadian visitor to London. At the end of "Mr Memory"'s show in a music hall, he meets Annabella Smith who is running away from secret agents. He accepts to hide her in his flat, but in the night she is murdered. Fearing he could be accused on the girl's murder, Hannay goes on the run to break the spy ring. Written by
Claudio Sandrini <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The hand firing the pistol in the music hall (putatively Annabella's) is wearing a short gray leather glove with a distinct pebbled grain. In subsequent scenes, her gloves are black fabric. See more »
Music hall announcer:
Ladies and Gentleman, with your kind attention, and permission, I have the honor of presenting to you one of the most remarkable men in the world.
Heckler in Audience:
How remarkable? He's sweating!
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This is proof - if ever it were really needed - that age doesn't really affect a film's quality. If anyone needs to see some of Hitchcock's finest moments, this should be among them.
Playing fast and loose somewhat with John Buchan's (1916) novel, Hitchcock nevertheless directs a fast-moving, riveting story of political intrigue and paranoia with some truly hair-raising scenes (the Forth rail bridge scene springs to mind).
Hitchcock makes his usual cameo appearances. Apart from the one noted here, he's also in one of the early scenes after Arabella Smith fires the pistol. The music hall audience panics and make for the egress, 'Hitch' being one of the crowd. He's also one of the detectives seeking Hannay after he leaves the train on the Forth bridge.
There are some really sparkling lines of dialogue: cold, hungry and tired after tramping across the moors in (what I suppose is Fife), Hannay encounters a crofter (played by John Laurie, later famous as Fraser in Dad's Army): Crofter (to Hannay who has asked him for a bed for the night): Can you sleep in a box bed?" Hannay: "I can try" Crofter: "Can you eat the herring?" Hannay: "I could eat half a dozen right now".
Once inside, the crofter's (much younger) wife asks Hannay the following, after hearing that he lives in London: "Is it true that the women in London are beautiful?" Hannay: "Some of them are but they wouldn't be if they stood next to you." My word, what a charmer!
In case you were wondering, the thirty-nine steps in the original book referred to the steps down to the sea at a secluded bay, the spy involved arranging to be extracted by a submarine when the tide had covered up to the thirty-ninth step from the top. This is not alluded to in the 1935 film version, other than to give a name to the network of spies involved. Hannay was a mining engineer and Arabella Smith in the book is a man! It's a short-ish film too, coming in at about an hour and a quarter. It's occasionally on British terrestrial telly and never fails to please. Why they tried to remake this (in 1953 and 1978) is anyone's guess as you can't improve on perfection.
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