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The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) Poster

Trivia

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The picture was notable for its grand finale with Richard Hannay (Robert Powell) hanging off the clock-face of London's Big Ben clock-tower a sequence which doesn't even occur in John Buchan's source 1915 novel. The sequence was actually inspired by both the earlier Harold Lloyd silent 1923 comedy Safety Last! (1923) as well as the 1943 British black-and-white farcical comedy My Learned Friend (1943) which interestingly were each both made around twenty years apart.
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Lord Tweedsmuir, son of "The 39 Steps" source novelist John Buchan, according to producer Greg Smith, apparently liked the movie, was glad that the adaptation utilized more content from his father's source novel, and felt that his dad would have liked the added on ending with the Big Ben clock-tower.
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Lead actor Robert Powell around a decade later reprized his role as Richard Hannay in the television series Hannay (1988). The film's screenwriter Michael Robson also wrote regularly for the series.
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Robert Powell was cast in the lead role of Richard Hannay due to his popularity from starring in the television mini series Jesus of Nazareth (1977).
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Final cinema movie of actor Eric Porter.
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Third big-screen cinema version of John Buchan's story with the first being The 39 Steps (1935) and the second The 39 Steps (1959). The fourth version, The 39 Steps (2008), was made-for-television.
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The film was made and released about sixty-three years after its source John Buchan novel of the same name had been first published in 1915.
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First of three collaborations of actor Robert Powell and director Don Sharp the others being The Four Feathers (1978) and What Waits Below (1985).
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The picture was the first in an intended series of films financed by the Rank Organisation which was increasing its output during the late 1970s though albeit this became a transient increase.
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Director Don Sharp was hired to direct because according to producer Greg Smith because he was "one of Britain's best action adventure directors and he was familiar with the period".
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The familiar story element of the man and woman being on the run hand-cuffed together was removed for this film version of John Buchan's source story of "The 39 Steps". Other story elements removed for the film from earlier versions included the characters of Mr Memory and the spy with the short finger.
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The Big Ben clock-tower seen in the film utilized for long-shots and exteriors the real London landmark but for close-ups for the action sequences the Big Ben clock-tower was a replica built on a sound-stage at Pinewood Studios.
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One of a number of late 1970s early 1980s movies where actor David Warner portrayed a villain.
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The picture is considered the most faithful of the three screen versions of John Buchan's source novel despite the addition of the Big Ben clock-tower finale story element which was not in the original 1915 book.
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This film, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978), is the only one of the four versions of the story to not-numerate the "thirty-nine" phrase in the film's title, the others all being number titled as The 39 Steps (1935), The 39 Steps (1959) and The 39 Steps (2008).
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Tony Williams of the Rank Organisation, this film's production studio, said of this remake in 1978: "The old films suffer technically against today's. The pace of modern films is much faster. The style of acting is different. Those old actors were marvelous, but if you consult the man in the street, he's more interested in seeing a current artist than someone who's been dead for years . . . You have to go back in time to tell a story that doesn't have to face seventies problems. What people are nostalgic for isn't necessarily any particular period, but the happier values that are missing today".
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The movie's MacGuffin was a secret black notebook.
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Third big-screen cinema version of John Buchan's story with the first being Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) and the second The 39 Steps (1959) directed by Ralph Thomas. The fourth version, The 39 Steps (2008), was made-for-television.
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The name of the German cruiser ship was "Ariadne's Thread".
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Final produced screenplay for a cinema movie [to date, June 2014] of writer Michael Robson.
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The only big-screen cinema version of John Buchan's "The 39 Steps" novel which was not set in the same year that the movie was made and released (which was 1914) as was the case with the two earlier films, 1935's The 39 Steps (1935) and 1959's The 39 Steps (1959).
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The steam engine and railway track seen in the film were from the Severn Valley Railway Company who loaned the production the locomotive.
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The film had a Royal World Charity Premiere hosted in the presence of Mark Phillips and Her Royal Highness Princess Anne held on Thursday 23rd November 1978 with proceeds from the special launch event going to aid and benefit The Save The Children Fund.
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The lead central role of Richard Hannay (cast with Robert Powell) was a much sought after part within the British film industry and the international movie scene at the time of the film's development and pre-production.
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The film was made and released about forty-three years after the first version of the movie The 39 Steps (1935), about nineteen years after the first remake and second version, The 39 Steps (1959), and about thirty years before the fourth made-for-television 2008 version The 39 Steps (2008).
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First of two late 1970s remakes of Alfred Hitchcock movies from Hitch's English black-and-white 1930s talkies period, this film being a remake of 1935's The 39 Steps (1935)). The second remake was a remake of 1938's The Lady Vanishes (1938) it being 1979's The Lady Vanishes (1979).
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Producer Greg Smith once said of this film: "The Hitchcock version was about 20 percent Buchan and 80 percent Hitchcock. Our goal was to turn it around and make the film 80 percent Buchan and 20 percent invention".
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One of a number of espionage films directed by Don Sharp. The films include Callan (1974); Bang! Bang! You're Dead! (1966); Bear Island (1979); Hennessy (1975) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978).
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Producer Greg Smith was a fan of the novels by John Buchanand wanted to make a film version of Buchan's 'The 39 Steps' that was "true to the period in which the novel was set, just prior to World War I, when Europe was one huge powder-keg and nobody knew what a world war was".
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One of two adaptations of stories by John Buchan that debuted in the year of 1978. The other was the television series Huntingtower (1978).
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The film's opening prologue states: "Early in 1914 a coded cable was sent from a European power to a house in West London. Decoded it read: "Let the sleepers awake".
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Though not in the source John Buchan novel, the use of famous London landmark Big Ben clock in this film, was a Hitchcockian type story element. Alfred Hitchcock directed the first filmed version The 39 Steps (1935) and a number of Hitch's films notably had suspense sequences set on famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur (1942), Mt Rushmore in North by Northwest (1959), and the Golden Gate Bridge in Vertigo (1958). Other Hitchcock films featured such famous landmarks as the Albert Hall, Piccadilly Circus, the British Museum, and the Forth Rail Bridge.
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The actor playing Richard Hannay in this film and in the subsequent TV series Hannay (1988), Robert Powell, had the same first name as the actor who portrayed the character in the original Alfred Hitchcock version of The 39 Steps (1935), Robert Donat. Moreover, the actor who played Hannay in the tele-movie The 39 Steps (2008), Rupert Penry-Jones, had the similar first name of Rupert.
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The character of Sir Richard Hannay (played by Robert Powell), also appears in another John Buchan story which has been filmed, "The Three Hostages", which has been shot twice, for television on both occasions, as a series, The Three Hostages (1952), and as a tele-movie, The Three Hostages (1977), the latter of which was first broadcast just the year before this motion picture debuted.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The meaning and relevance of The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) title in this film version refers to the run of steps to the various levels of the Big Ben clock-tower each existing in ranges of thirteen running from the Lauderdale Door to the belfry of Big Ben itself.
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The film's closing epilogue states: "Edmund Appleton (David Warner) was convicted of treason in May 1914. And thanks to Richard Hannay [Robert Powell], Britain gained valuable time to prepare for the Great War".
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The time that the bomb was set to be set-off in the Big Ben clock-tower was 11.45.
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