Warning: This rambling review is actually an outline of the movie I wrote for a screenwriting class. So, if you don’t want to read spoilers, DO NOT read this review (or whatever it is). If you’ve seen the movie and would like to revisit it, then here you go! 🙂
The hero (Hannay) is at a theatre performance of Mr. Memory, who claims to know everything. During the show, a melee ensues and a shot rings out. Hannay goes home with a strange woman (God knows why exactly) who reveals that she’s a freelance spy (aka, agent) and that she fired the gun to create a diversion, because she’s being followed by men who want to kill her to keep her from thwarting their plans to smuggle information out of the country. She mentions the 39 Steps, an evil man with a missing part of his finger, and that she needs to meet a man in Scotland. But doesn’t tell him anything else.
In the middle of the night, the woman stumbles into the room where Hannay’s sleeping with a knife in her back and a (rather convenient) map in her hand. Now, Hannay has to get out of there.
Hannay uses a clever lie to escape the killers and catches a train to Scotland. However, when the body’s discovered and Hannay’s disappearance is in the newspapers, he grows increasingly anxious about getting caught by the police (who he figures probably won’t believe his story). He hides out with a farmer, who has an unhappy wife who likes Hannay. Then, about the time the (very paranoid and devout) farmer accuses his wife of adultery with Hannay, the cops show up. Hannay pays the farmer not to give him away, but the farmer double-crosses him. So Hannay has to keep running.
There’s a big chase scene, where the police chase Hannay over the Scottish moors. But Hannay makes it to a house, which was (conveniently) circled on the map. And, since it’s a Hitchcock movie, there’s a big party going on at the house, and the head of the house is a distinguished citizen. The housekeeper convinces the police that no stranger has come by. However, after the party breaks up, it turns out that the distinguished citizen is missing part of his finger, i.e., he’s a very, very bad man.
The bad man shoots Hannay, who’s saved by his Bible. Hannay tells the local sheriff what happened in the house. And the sheriff assures him it’s all good. But then, he turns Hannay over to two men who claim to be policemen. Double-crossed again!
So, Hannay makes a break for it and runs into a big political rally, where he’s mistaken for the candidate. And Hannay kind of rolls with it, telling a rambling funny speech to buy time. And the crowd goes wild and mobs the stage. But then, Hannay cedes the podium to the real politician. And a woman and a man take Hannay away, while he tries to convince them to call Canada, because terrible spy stuff is going down.
Then, the alleged police tell the woman that she has to come with them and Hannay. But eventually, Hannay realizes, “Hey, these guys aren’t police.” And through cleverness and resourcefulness, Hannay escapes again. But not before being handcuffed to the woman.
Hannay and woman (whose name I never heard) find refuge at an Inn where the proprietors mistake them for a newly-married couple, who are “so terribly in love.” In the middle of the night, the woman manages to pull her hand from the handcuff (ouch!).
But before she can leave, she overhears the two men talking on the phone and confirming Hannay’s story. Then, when the men talk to the male proprietor, who almost spills the beans, his wife comes along and chases the two men out. Because she doesn’t want to rat out that nice young couple.
At this point, Hannay finally has someone on his side–the woman, yeah. And they go to the Palladium Theatre in London, because the man with the crap finger must meet the two men there. Hannay’s in the audience when Mr. Memory is introduced. And he realizes that Mr. Memory has the information the spies want to get out of the country. But, the villain and the police are both after Hannay. Fortunately, the police get to him first.
Before he’s taken away, Hannay shouts out “What are the 39 Steps?” to Mr. Memory, who then tells everyone it’s a secret organization of spies. But he’s shot before he can reveal the information.
So, they take Mr. Memory backstage, and he tells them the information before he dies. But no one was taking notes, so … so much for that. 🙂
But Hannay is in the clear, and he has a girlfriend–whatever her name may be.
This movie is awesome!