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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)
...
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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Most Suspenseful Manhunt in History!


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

13 March 1959 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

39 escalones  »

Filming Locations:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

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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

The model ship in the lake in the opening scene is a paddle steamer with a black hull, a distinct white stripe and red anti-fouling paint below the waterline. The model carried across the bridge by the contact/agent a minute later is larger, has a brown hull with black anti-fouling paint, and seems to be a naval ship. 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.
See more »

Connections

Version of The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

Rank Bad Remake
29 September 2004 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Kenneth More was at his peak when "The 39 Steps" came out: trim and the right side of 50 but capable and sagacious, the paradigm of the modest, unflappable and humorous British gent.

But his chances were limited by the grey blanket thrown over the Rank Organisation's contract players by its calculating accountant boss, John Davis. More's loyalty to the uninspired producer-director team of Box and Thomas did him no favours either. Stodginess suffuses "The 39 Steps": it seems all too fitting that this must be one of the last action pictures whose hero wears a business suit and tie throughout.

As a modernised, colour remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic, it makes the Highland scenery look good. And it follows the original (a cheerful travesty of Buchan's yarn) pretty closely save for a few pointless changes, such as making the hunted hero lecture giggling girls instead of a political gathering. Yet it is lifeless compared with More's previous and subsequent movies, "A Night to Remember" and "North West Frontier".

It's not Kenny's fault: he is Donat's equal in resourcefulness and blitheness. One flaw is games mistress and love interest Taina Elg, one of several drippy Continental misses imported to exoticise British films in those faraway days (cf Maria Schell, Anouk Aimee, Odile Versois). Ms Elg's mousy Finnish looks and manner cannot begin to compare with Hitch's haughty but seducible blonde, Madeleine Carroll: the stocking-changing scene, for instance, packs no heat.

But the big problem is Thomas's pedestrian handling. Toning down the erotic charge is only one way in which he garbles his tale. The constant flashes of imagination and twists which Hitch extracted from genre material-- such as the glimpse of the crofter and his young wife through the window after Hannay leaves, or the chorus line's legs kicking heedlessly behind the pitiable Mr Memory-- have all vanished, like a master-painter's brushwork obscured by clumsy retouching.

That poignant final scene in the music hall could serve as a film-school case study in the gap between genius and mediocrity. Thomas hustles us through it. Mr Memory has no time to display his skills, nor has Hannay time to work out the mystery, before the assassin strikes. Hitch's backstage show-must-go-on flurry is omitted; Thomas reproduces the famous hands-and-handcuffs shot, then tries to cap the scene with a silly epilogue showing More in a flat cap with a walking stick, strolling arm in arm with Elg by the river. A banal happy ending to a listless entertainment. Only Van Sant's misbegotten remake of "Psycho" served the Master's memory worse.


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