The 39 Steps (1935)
Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock perfected his favourite thriller set-up – the innocent man on the run – with this adaptation of John Buchan’s classic adventure novel.
Hitchcock and his frequent screenwriter Charles Bennett play fast and loose with the original plot of John Buchan’s 1915 novel, as hero Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) flees London for the Highlands (Glen Coe), evading the police in pursuit of a vicious foreign spy ring.
‘The 39 Steps’ established Hitchcock’s comedy-thriller template of set pieces – including a dramatic escape from the Flying Scotsman on the Forth Bridge – linked by a tenuous plot and laced with sexual tension, not least when Hannay finds himself handcuffed to Pamela (Madeleine Carroll). Pamela is the archetype of the cool blondes featured in so many of the director’s subsequent films.
This and ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938) remain the best known of the films Hitchcock made in Britain before moving on to even greater success in Hollywood from 1939 onwards.