Sunday, March 02, 2008
How Do I Order My 39 Steps? Two Ways
I just read John Buchan's The 39 Steps, and watched the Hitchcock movie of the same name.
Introductory Conclusion (ha!): While not starting out as a project, I would not recommend participating in absorbing both as one. Leave these units sole entities and enjoy them just the same, comforted in the knowledge that both have fallen off the copyrighter's radar screen and are now in the public domain.
The film version, produced by Michael Balcon, who produced one of my favorite films, Dead of Night, and directed by Alfred Hitchcock appears to be an almost completely new invention that utilizes only the main premise and some of the names of characters.
The novel, by proud Scotsman (by virtue of the portrayal of his countrymen and women, the opposite of Hitchcock's portrayal of brutsh stingy Scots) John Buchan, is a an extremely fast paced thriller that pits villains appropriate to today's one-worlder conspiracy theorists, against an improvised adventurer who is enlisted by a spy with several character-shaping pathologies and prejudices aiding his motivation and world view.
Along the way as we follow Richard Hannay the protagonist, there are plenty of Deus Ex Machina situations arising, such as stumbling upon the exact location at which he needed to arrive, accidentally meeting a reviled London colleague 12 hours distance from the city, and kindness from strangers that even Santa Claus couldn't engender.
This is all forgivable owing to the pacing and the tone of the writing. Hannay is the a protagonist in whose shoes on is willing to jump. The book adds up to a short thrill that grips one, and doesn't let go until the end.
Hitchcock's film, while wildly different in plot mechanisms and characters, maintains the best of the book, namely Hannay's pathological ingenuity in staying one step ahead of his pursuers. Equally gripping, with moments that provide a window into an England that is only 20 years and a World War since the original publication of the book, with the same Teutonic treacheries afoot, providing an analogous zeitgeist for the Mise en Scene, awaiting another global conflict, wile enjoying life in the interim.
So, on to the links:
Here's the book in it's entirety
Here's a link to a BUNCH of John Buchan novels I always have to laugh at the NO US ACCESS warnings!!!
Buchan's Wikipedia Bio, (he was a big shot!)
Wa-hey! Here's the Movie, and and here's where you can download it (on the left)and own the friggin' thing!
Mercury Theatre of the Air (Orson Welles)
A Criterion Collection obsessed fan's review of the Film.
Enjoy. It's the future - so far.