Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

What you have here is an old guy. In education for 30 years, started teaching elementary, ended as library and media director of community college. I've enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival, walking and hiking later in life. Now fairly sedentary. Enjoy reading, esp. mysteries and fantasy, but my reading is pretty eclectic. Enjoy movies, giving Netflix a workout.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The 39 Steps: I mentioned acquiring The 39 Steps on DVD the other day. Last night I sat down and watched it. It had been a long while since I viewed it last. When they said ‘Fade to black’ they meant it. Black screen for seconds between scenes. The movie is from a novel by John Buchan and features his character, Richard Hannay. Buchan wrote four novels featuring Hannay. In the movie Hannay is visiting England from Canada. He attends a music hall show and when it is over he befriends a young woman who is obviously frightened. He takes her home where she divulges that two men, foreign agents, are after her and that she has a secret that must be taken to a man in Scotland. She is murdered. Hannay knows that he will be accused of the crime and flees, attempting to get to Scotland and find the man. Then, as they say, the chase is on. He escapes from the train which is stopped in the middle of a bridge, then flees across the Scottish countryside. There is a wonderful scene where he comes to a town. He is mistaken for a politician running for election and must make a stirring speech on the spot. Arrested by the police, he escapes, only to be caught again. With a beautiful young woman he is put in a car, ostensibly to be taken to a police station. He realizes that the men are not the police and, handcuffed to the young woman, escapes again into the Scottish countryside. At a country pub they are taken for wedding elopers and put up for the night. They learn (by eavesdropping, of course) that the answer to what ‘the 39 steps’ are will be revealed at the same music hall where it all started. Hannay knows that he must be there. Cut to London music hall. Denoument.

In retrospect I found the movie to be quite a primitive piece of film making. I just had forgotten how far the equipment has come. The film was made in 1935 and was black-and-white. Many of the outdoor scenes were very dark and I found myself squinting in an attempt to see what was being photographed. But the plot was fine and pretty exciting. Robert Donat played Richard Hannay and Madeleine Carrol played the beautiful young blonde who finds herself handcuffed to what she thinks is a murderer. Old cars, double-crosses, the Scottish lowlands and moors, music hall routines and a pretty good mystery. John Buchan is one of my favorite authors. He wrote many more novels than the four aforementioned. He also wrote history and finished off a government career as the governor-general of Canada. As I recall he died in 1941. For some reason this film makes me think of Man Hunt, a film made slightly later from a novel entitled Rogue Male written by Geoffrey Household. I’m now going to have to dig that film out of my VHS collection and take another look at it.


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