The 39 Steps (1959)

Starring: Kenneth More, Taina Elg, Brenda De Banzie and Faith Brook
Carlton Visual Entertainment
RRP: 9.99
Certificate: U
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Nineteen-fourteen and mining engineer Richard Hannay is visiting Britain for a short stay before returning to South Africa. But his visit is quickly turned on its head when one of his neighbours, Colonel Scudder, tells him that Prussian 'sleeper' agents are planning to start a war by murdering a visiting foreign minister. However, Scudder is murdered and Hannay is framed for the death by the sleepers. Fleeing to Scotland Hannay attempts to clear his name...

This 1959 version of The 39 Steps is less faithful to the book that the previous, and more famous, adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock. And although that isn't really a problem in itself, any comparison to a Hitch film is never going to be easy to sustain.

Kenneth Moore's portrayal of accidental hero Richard Hannay doesn't carry the emotional weight the part needs although he manages to impart the vulnerability with a little more conviction than his casting might immediately suggest. Unfortunately, he fails to bring much humour to Hannay which holes the character below the water line pretty much from the off. For the movie to really work Hannay must be seen to realise the futility of his fate while also laughing at it.

On the plus side The 39 Steps uses its London and Scotland locations well and there is a real sense of pace. Sadly Moore is miscast which fatally undermines the film.

Anthony Clark

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