The 39 Steps
Alfred Hitchcock’s nearly unquestioned reputation as “the Master of Suspense” (not to mention his broader acclaim by practically anyone who cares about movies as one of the masters of cinema) began to solidify around the time of The 39 Steps (1935). Made at the peak of the director’s British career—he would go on to make four more films in the UK (including 1938’s The Lady Vanishes) before being invited to Hollywood by David Selznick in 1939--The 39 Steps is practically a blueprint for Hitchcock’s later stylistic, narrative, and thematic obsessions. The story of a debonair, wrongly-accused man embroiled in a murder-espionage plot with a coolly erotic blonde, The 39 Steps foreshadows elements (if not entire plotlines) of Young and Innocent (1937), Saboteur (1942), The Wrong Man (1956), and North by Northwest (1959), among others. But, as is often the case in Hitchcock’s films, the narrative foundation doesn’t matter as much as the precise formal construction and witty visual entendres.
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