March 7, 2010

The Thirty-Nine Steps

Posted in England, Movie Reviews, Scotland at 2:56 am by catsinboxes

I always love to know what other people think about movies I’m interested in, so now I will return the favor.  (Not that I know that you are interested in The Thirty-Nine Steps, but if the above picture hasn’t piqued your interest, I don’t know what will!)

Rupert Penry-Jones, known to Jane Austen fans for his role as Captain Wentworth in Masterpiece Theater’s adaptation of Persuasion, plays Richard Hannay, an engineer in London, recently returned from South Africa.  Hannay is a bit bored with life until a twist of fate involves him with Scudder, an English spy who claims that he has obtained information of vital importance to the security of Britain.  However, before Scudder can reveal much more, he is murdered and Hannay implicated with the crime.

Left with Scudder’s  mysterious cipher notebook, Hannay finds himself fleeing both police and Scudder’s own assassins, who are determined to obtain the notebook at any cost.  His only hope in proving his innocence is to discover Scudder’s cipher and prove his theory correct.  Hannay’s quest takes him to Scotland, where a young suffragette, Victoria Sinclair (Lydia Leonard), becomes embroiled in his search.  I won’t say any more, for fear of spoiling something.

Rupert Penry-Jones makes an excellent Hannay.  He’s tall and good looking which is always a must, if possible, for any adventure figure excepting Sean Bean, my favorite villain.  I like Penry-Jones much better in this role than as the brooding, petty Captain Wentworth of Masterpiece’s much-too-short and rushed Persuasion.

This is the third adaption of The Thirty-Nine Steps that I have watched, and I believe it is the closest to the book.  While in the book itself, there is no main female character, all three movies add one.  I think Victoria is the most interesting and multi-dimensional female compared to the two other love-interests in the previous movies.  The dialogue between Victoria and Hannay is delightful, a sort of Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy exchange fast-forwarded to 1914.  My only quibble, without giving away anything, is that I find the spin at the end of the movie a little too far-fetched and unrealistic.

The filming and scenery of the Scottish Highlands is excellent, and both Kelsey and I enjoyed the music.  The film is rated PG.  Language is minimal; I caught a couple profanities and at least one “damn.”  There is also mild innuendo, but nothing is implied, unlike Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers.

Overall, if you feel like enjoying a nice British adventure, I would certainly recommend The Thirty-Nine Steps as long as you realize, and don’t mind, the above-mentioned cautions.  If you are interested, it can be watched online through March 30th at:

What I would love to see is Masterpiece Theater continuing the Hannay series with Greenmantle, John Buchan’s sequel to The Thirty-Nine Steps . . . maybe they will.  I personally think that Rupert Penry-Jones and Lydia Leonard would make a perfect Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane pair; they’re even the right ages in real life!  But that would be another story altogether . . .