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The 39 Steps (1959)

Approved | | Comedy, Crime, Drama | 13 March 1959 (UK)
In London, a diplomat accidentally becomes involved in the death of a British agent who's after a spy ring that covets British military secrets.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Brenda de Banzie ...
Nellie Lumsden (as Brenda De Banzie)
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Professor Logan
Reginald Beckwith ...
Lumsden
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Nannie
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Mr. Memory
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...
McDougal
Andrew Cruickshank ...
Sheriff (as Andrew Cruikshank)
Leslie Dwyer ...
Milkman
Betty Henderson ...
Mrs. McDougal
...
Miss Dobson
...
Perce
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Storyline

Richard Hannay witnesses a hit-and-run involving a woman pushing a pram. Looking in the pram he sees a gun instead of a baby. He tracks the woman down and she reveals that she is a secret agent trying to stop foreign spies leaving the country with important military secrets. Later that night she is murdered in Hannay's flat. Hannay takes it on himself to thwart the enemy agents. This involves travelling to Scotland and keeping one step ahead of the police who are looking for him in connection with the murder of the woman. Written by ledostef, blackpool

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The Most Suspenseful Manhunt in History!


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Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

13 March 1959 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

39 escalones  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The copyright year in Roman numerals displayed near the beginning of the titles is malformed. If the correct copyright year is '1959' then the correct Roman numeral would be: 'MCMLIX'. However, the displayed Roman numeral is 'MCMLVIX' which is nonsensical. The displayed number would be: '1950+5+9' if it were valid. It is surmised that the designer thought '50' and added a '5'. See more »

Goofs

Hannay's journey to Scotland starts at Kings Cross Station where the clock shows it is 11.10 am. When he gets off the train at Edinburgh to stretch his legs the station clock shows it is 10.35 am and, a few minutes later as it pulls out of the station the outside clock shows it is 2.15pm. See more »

Quotes

Fisher: I'm not going to lie on that bed!
Richard Hannay: As long as you're chained to me you can't very well avoid it. Come on.
Fisher: Ow!
Fisher: I wish you wouldn't keep saying 'ow' like that. In a respectable house it might be misinterpreted.
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Connections

Referenced in Nankai no noroshi (1960) See more »

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User Reviews

 
This one is a bit sluggish, but if you like Kenneth More (and Brenda de Banzie) it's worth watching
30 January 2008 | by (San Antonio, Texas) – See all my reviews

It's quite possible to enjoy this 39 Steps, but it helps to see it fresh, without any recent memory of the 1935 Hitchcock version. That one is a classic of suspense, charm, testy romance, and surprises, abetted by two fine performances from Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. This 1959 Kenneth More vehicle maintains more-or-less the same plot line and contains some very good piece parts. While it doesn't add up to being in the same league with its elder sibling, it's good enough for a pleasant hour-and-a-half entertainment.

When a nanny Richard Hannay (More) had met accidentally earlier in the day is murdered in his rooms after telling him there is an international plot involving ballistic missiles, he realizes he will be blamed by the police. So, after looking through the dead woman's purse and discovering a map where Glenkirk in Scotland is circled, off he goes to see if he can discover the man behind the plot...a man with part of a finger missing. What Hannay encounters along the way is a suspicious school teacher, Miss Fisher (Taina Elg), who turns him in on the train going to Scotland; a fortune teller; an all too knowledgeable professor; two killers; a clever escape while handcuffed to Fisher and, finally, the secret only Mr. Memory, a music hall performer, can unlock.

The movie has several good elements, especially the charm and confidence of Kenneth More as Hannay; some wonderful Scottish scenery (the movie is in color); great train rides and one exciting train escape; a ripely eccentric performance by Brenda de Banzie as a fortune-telling realist who helps Hannay; a menacingly friendly appearance by Barry Jones; a funny performance by Joan Hickson as a twittering school teacher that reminded me of a middle- aged Miss Marple on amphetamines; and an all too brief performance by Faith Brook as the nanny. For nostalgia buffs, the movie opens with the great J. Arthur Rank gong doing its reverberating thing.

Sadly, there is little chemistry between More and Elg. She most often only looks irritated. The spirit of the movie aims for light-hearted charm mixed with thrills, something More was very good at. To make the movie work, however, director Ralph Thomas and his editor needed to bring more energy to many of the thrills. Often the music score is used to set the tone, which is not always matched by the pace of the movie. To give Thomas credit, he was capable of delivering some menacing thrills as well as some fine, broad comedy. If you can track them down, The Clouded Yellow (1951), for romantic thrills and menace, and Doctor in the House (1954) and Doctor at Sea (1955), for comedy, are well worth viewing.

If you like Kenneth More and don't mind a relatively undemanding but pleasant adventure, you might enjoy this movie. I did. If you are one of those movie goers who fixate on how awful remakes of classics are, and indignantly make comparisons, this one will probably give you conniptions.


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