.. oached by a woman, Annabella, who asks if she may go home with him. He allows her to and soon finds out that she is hiding from two men that are after her. The romance has no time to grow since she is killed in the middle of the night, but not before she tells him of the 39 steps. Hannay feels it is his mission to complete what Annabella asked of him and also to prove he did not kill her.
From then on he is involved in chases, confrontations, and romantic interludes. The are just a few changes in the story line that Hitchcock knew would work better on screen. In the novel the houseguest was not a woman but a man, and he did not stay half a night but a couple of days. There was no Mr. Memory in the novel, but instead a spy with a photographic memory.
The Professor in the novel is distinctive because of his hooded eyes instead of a missing finger. The first two mentioned alterations were made for the interests of the audience. The last was because Hitchcock thought a missing finger would be more dramatic to film than someone with half shut eyes that they would have to close in on to emphasize. The technical aspects of the film are beautifully done. The editing was very smooth with quick transitions from one scene to the next which was very different than the film Blackmail.
The latter film was not as tight in editing which can take away from the film. Also the sound in Blackmail was not as clear as the sound in this film. You can truly tell the difference that six years can make in the improvement of quality. Not to say that the sound in Blackmail was bad, for it was not. It was impressive for being the first talkie of England.
Specifically, the sound when the door would open and you could hear all the sounds of the city not just what was going on in the shop. This is similar to the scenes in the theater of The 39 Steps when you can hear the crowd as well as the man on stage and the band’s music. The lighting in The 39 Steps is also a technique I’d like to touch upon. One of the first scenes is at the theater where a fight breaks out. The shot shifts from the view from the floor to the view from the stage. In the view from the stage I liked how the crowd closest to the camera was shadowed while the men that were fighting in the distance were lighted.
It gave an overlook of the whole audience, but also brought attention to the action. This spotlight effect was also used a few minutes later in the film when Annabella has pointed out the spies to Richard. He looks out the window and down on the corner of the street are two men under a sort of spotlight created by the streetlamp. Another creative use of lighting in this film is when Richard is in Scotland and he is being chased through the countryside. At one point he pauses at the top of a hill that is completely dark, but the mountain behind him is illuminated so that you can see a dark silhouette of his form. The chase seems to pause for just a moment so that the audience may take that in.
The last example is in the last scene when Richard and Pamela are on stage and there is light on them while the crowd is faded out a bit. The only disadvantage to the use of lighting was there were some scenes that were so dark you could barely make out the characters that were speaking. I noticed this is in both the country scenes and the city scenes. Hitchcock also tends to use irony quite often which some viewers might not notice if not analyzing one of his films. One of the first scenes in The 39 Steps is Annabella asking Richard if she may go home with him because she feels that she owes him an explanation for having fired shots at the theater. He says, Don’t bother.
I’m nobody. At first I thought this to be tied in with the opening of the film when the first three shots never show him above the neck and then he is assumed to be lost in the crowd. I came to realize the irony in that statement as the movie progressed, though. He comes to pose as a milkman, a motor mechanic, a marcher in a parade, and a political speaker. I wouldn’t say that Richard was nobody, but rather that he could be anybody. Irony is also used in Blackmail when Alice is sitting at the kitchen table.
The older woman is talking unintelligibly but the only word that the girl can hear is knife over and over again. A knife happens to be what she used to kill the attempted rapist. That is a more blatant use of irony. While Blackmail had much impact on the fashion of movies and the transition to talkies, the film The 39 Steps had a large historical impact on movies. After this movie came out almost every chase and spy thriller have copied its style. This film set a precedent for similar types of movies and directors realized it attracted an audience. The film gets the viewer so involved in the suspense, action, and romance they almost forget about the actual 39 Steps.
Better said: Such is the zest of the Hitchcock plot that the original point of the title was totally forgotten, and half a line had to be added at the end by way of explanation. This quote essentially sums up the film that contains minimal special effects and an incredible plot that intrigues an audience to stay in their seats and watch a masterpiece. The last movie I am going to mention is the 1939 film, The Lady Vanishes. This film is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s last films made in Britain before he immigrated over to America to pursue his directing career. It is a warm film that still holds mystery and suspense. The film takes place on a train bound for England travelling across central Europe. All the main characters have been introduced from the night before when they were snowed into an inn in an unnamed location Cinema and Television.