The 39 Steps Richard Hannay witnesses a hit-and-run involving a woman pushing a pram. Looking in the pram he sees a gun instead of a baby. He tracks the woman down and she reveals that she is a secret agent trying to stop foreign spies leaving the country with important military secrets. Later that night she is murdered in Hannay’s flat. Hannay takes it on himself to thwart the enemy agents. This involves travelling to Scotland and keeping one step ahead of the police who are looking for him in connection with the murder of the woman.
Some found it hard to differentiate this interpretation of the classic novel from the superb Alfred Hitchcock version made in 1935. Which is a shame because on its own terms this is a fun packed mystery boosted by More’s effervescent charm.
Story is a cracker, Richard Hannay (More) finds himself up to his neck in espionage after a mysterious lady is stabbed to death in is flat. Trying to get to the bottom of the mystery puts him in grave danger and takes him North to Scotland, where he hopes he can clear himself of the suspected murderer rap – and unravel the words he heard – The 39 Steps.
No! It isn’t as good as Hitch’s film, choosing to replace out and out suspense with a more humoristic approach, but the chase yarn aspects are briskly directed by Thomas, and the Scottish locations provided a wonderful backdrop to the fun drama. This same year Hammer Films put a different spin on The Hound of the Baskervilles, with fine results. So it be with the Rank Organisation and this take on the Buchan story. Good fun and well worth a look if you haven’t seen it before.