Setter’s ‘Spectives: Is ‘The 39 Steps’ Hitchcock’s Best Movie?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I don’t know, but I sure like it a heckuva lot.

What I wanna know is: Why doesn’t The 39 Steps get old or creaky? It’s just as fast-paced and fun as ever, with crackling dialogue, amusing performances (especially from Robert Donat … what a talent) and brilliant cinematography, which provides a wonderful snapshot of the old British music-hall entertainments.

Frankly, I can’t get enough of this flick.

I realized Hitch honed his craft greatly following Steps, providing much slicker pictures, but there’s something about this 1935 charmer that keeps me watching the screen when it’s on. There was a time when I preferred The Lady Vanishes to it, but now I’m not so sure. And there’s a seminal quality to Steps as well … it’s one of the films that introduced Hitchcock’s whole “wrong man” oeuvre to audiences, and there’s something to be said for that.

I’ll tell you something: I’m walkin’ these steps for as long as they’re around.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: ‘Psycho’ Viewers, Qu’est-ce Que C’est?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Watching Alfred Hitchcock’s inimitable scare-fest Psycho last night on TV thrilled me more than it ever has in the past.

Why? Well, for one thing, I didn’t like it.

Yes, that’s thrilling. Really. Because last night, the reason became apparent.

It’s a negative movie. It’s oddly structured. The dialogue is bizarre. And Hitch spends a heckuva lot of time showing you these seemingly “mundane” details, like Janet Leigh packing and unpacking her suitcase and Anthony Perkins cleaning up the bathroom after he has dispatched her.

All of this is deliberate. I’m not saying Hitchcock wasn’t in command. But it’s almost as if the great director was trying to call attention to ordinary activities that aren’t normally seen in the movies.

That helps develop character…and I think that’s why the film’s so effective. Perkins’ obsessive mopping and post-murder preparations reveal how deeply disturbed he is, while Leigh’s behavior suggests an interior schism over the money she’s stolen. It’s all brilliantly done, and it’s an incredibly watchable movie, despite all of the minutiae.

Yet I still don’t like it. It seems more experimental to me than many of the master’s other pictures, a grim, stark-looking study rather than a finished product. Again: I don’t think anything is loose, here; Hitch was in control through and through. But for me, it’s hard to watch. I’d rather sit down to a viewing of The 39 Steps, you know?

Something where you don’t feel like you have to take a shower afterward.