The 39 Steps review

Perhaps the finest of Hitchcock’s British films, this remains the archetypal comedy-thriller, as entertaining today as it must’ve been 70 years ago. It goes without saying that Hitch crams his brisk adaptation of John Buchan’s novel with unforgettable seat-edge moments: the music hall shooting, suave wrong-man Robert Donat’s escape from a train on the Forth Rail Bridge, the appearance of the man with the missing finger. But what truly lifts this above subsequent chase films is the spark between Donat and Madeleine Carrol, reluctantly handcuffed together for much of the film. Pretending to be newlyweds in order to share a hotel room, their antics push the movie into perverse screwball territory. All the fun of North By Northwest in a little over half the time, The 39 Steps is – even for the umpteenth viewing – absolutely unmissable.

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