Critical Analysis of Hitchcock's "The Thirty-Nine Steps"
Hitchcock masterfully creates a fast paced spy thriller, which holds the audience's attention throughout. He accomplishes this through his heightened editing along with other various narrative devices. The editing for the film is surprisingly fast for a film from that time period. This was very helpful in many of the standard spy thriller moments, but it also took away from the film at other times. For example, Mr. Jordan, one of the king pins of the 39 steps spy organization, has a confrontation with the protagonist Hannay which seems to only last for a couple of minutes and doesn't do justice to all the potential tension the scene could hold. Also, some moments dragged on too long still and became somewhat cliched in retrospect, which allowed them to be parodied in the stage play of the same name. An example of this is when Hannay is looking at the map, and the spy, who recently got assassinated, becomes superimposed on the image of the map saying "these men will stop at nothing", or something along those lines. However, this also brings up a plot hole; if these men murdered her in his house, why didn't they just kill Hannay as well?
Also, some of the sound cues of the piece didn't really add much to the piece, because they seemed rushed and forced onto the film. An example of this is when Hannay's maid cleans up his apartment and sees the dead spy and screams. This then becomes a slight sound bridge transforming into the sound of a train leading the audience into the next scene.
It is noticeable how much Hitchcock developed his own style throughout his career. This is by no means saying that this film was bad or unenjoyable; it just wasn't up to par with some of his later greats such as "Psycho", "Vertigo", "North by Northwest", "Rear Window", or "The Birds". This film served as a stepping stone for his future career in the cinematic arts.