If you have 82 minutes of spare time right now, I can see no reason why you should not spend it watching Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, streaming for free at SlashControl. It's from 1935, and while the Master of Suspense had made more than a dozen films before it (including several during the silent era), this is the oldest one that's still seen and discussed with any regularity. With good reason, too: It's 74 years old, yet it still comes across as clever, witty, and suspenseful. How many 74-year-olds can say that?

It's one of Hitchcock's earliest uses of what would become a major theme for him, that of the innocent man pursued for a crime he didn't commit. In this case, it's a Canadian fellow named Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) who, while visiting London, meets a beautiful spy who is then murdered in his apartment, leaving police to assume he's the culprit. Hannay goes on the run and winds up entangled with a woman named Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), who does not believe his innocence at first. At one point they are handcuffed together, one of the earliest instances of that goofy plot device. Their quarrelsome travels through the countryside may remind you of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, from a year earlier.

There is currently a live adaptation of The 39 Steps playing on Broadway and London's West End, and touring the United States. It's a comedy version, with all the roles played by just four actors, and it has an abundance of slapstick, farce, wordplay and non sequitur Hitchcock references. You should see it if you get the chance -- it's very funny.

In the meantime, familiarize yourself by watching The 39 Steps at SlashControl!

categories Cinematical