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http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/hitchcock.htm
U.K. 1935

A heart-racing spy story by Alfred Hitchcock, The 39 Steps follows Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) as he stumbles upon a conspiracy that thrusts him into a hectic chase across the Scottish moors—a chase in which he is both the pursuer and the pursued—as well as into an unexpected romance with the cool Pamela (Madeline Carroll). Adapted from a novel by John Buchan, this classic wrong-man thriller from the Master of Suspense anticipates the director’s most famous works (especially North by Northwest), and remains one of his cleverest and most entertaining films.

***

A classic British spy mystery, and one of Hitchcock's best, THE 39 STEPS is the story of an innocent man who struggles to prove his innocence. Robert Donat gets more than he bargained for when he brings home a mysterious woman who confesses to be a British agent on the hot trail of a dangerous spy ring. The woman is killed in Donat's apartment and he immediately finds himself on the run, burdened with the charge for her murder and the dangerous knowledge of her mission. The film is distinguished by its pioneering use of contrapuntal sound effects, as well as the dynamism between Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

***

The best known of Hitchcock’s British films, this civilized spy yarn follows the escapades of Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), who stumbles into a conspiracy that involves him in a hectic chase across the Scottish moors—a chase in which he is both the pursuer and the pursued. Adapted from John Buchan’s novel, this classic Hitchcock “wrong man” thriller encapsulates themes that anticipate the director’s biggest American films (especially North by Northwest), and is a standout among his early works.

Posters (Click to enlarge)

Theatrical Release Date: 1 August, 1935

Reviews      MORE Reviews

Comparison:

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL vs. ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

BIG thanks to Pavel Borodin for the Carlton DVD screen caps!

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT
2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL SECOND
3) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers
 

 

 

 

Distribution Criterion
Region 1 encoded ( North America ) 
Carlton Visual Entertainment Ltd
Region 2 - PAL 
ITV DVD
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray 
Criterion Collection - Spine # 56 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

(click titles for DVDBeaver reviews)

Criterion (without any extras) also available in The Essential Art House - 50 Years of Janus Films - a 50-disc celebration of international films collected under the auspices of the groundbreaking theatrical distributor. It contains Alexander Nevsky (1938), Ashes And Diamonds (1958), L'avventura (1960), Ballad Of A Soldier (1959), Beauty And The Beast (1946), Black Orpheus (1959), Brief Encounter (1945), The Fallen Idol (1948), Fires On The Plain (1959), Fists In The Pocket (1965), Floating Weeds (1959), Forbidden Games (1952), The 400 Blows (1959), Grand Illusion (1937), Häxan (1922), Ikiru (1952), The Importance Of Being Earnest (1952), Ivan The Terrible, Part II (1958), Le Jour Se Lève (1939), Jules And Jim (1962), Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949), Knife In The Water (1962), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943), Loves Of A Blonde (1965), M (1931), M. Hulot's Holiday (1953), Miss Julie (1951), Pandora's Box (1929), Pépé Le Moko (1937), Il Posto (1961), Pygmalion (1938), Rashomon (1950), Richard III (1955), The Rules Of The Game (1939), Seven Samurai (1954), The Seventh Seal (1957), The Spirit Of The Beehive (1973), La Strada (1954), Summertime (1955), The Third Man (1949), The 39 Steps (1935), Ugetsu (1953), Umberto D. (1952), The Virgin Spring (1960), Viridiana (1961), The Wages Of Fear (1953), The White Sheik (1952), Wild Strawberries (1957), Three Documentaries By Saul J. Turell plus the hardcover, full color 240-page book.

Runtime 1:26:24 1:22:27 ( 4% PAL speedup ) 1:26:17.672 1:26:45.617
Video 1.33:1  Academy Ratio 
Average Bitrate: 6.6 mb/s

NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Academy Ratio 
Average Bitrate: 5.9 mb/s

PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P / 23.976 fps Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,689,858,148 bytes

Feature: 13,900,661,952 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.45 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1.33:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,326,654,104 bytes

Feature: 25,599,449,088 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 
Bitrate

Criterion:

Bitrate

Carlton:

 

Bitrate

ITV Blu-ray

 

Bitrate

Criterion Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English or none English or none English or none English or none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane
• Production notes
Gorgeous new digital transfer, with restored picture and sound
• The complete 1937 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation performed by Robert Montgomery and Ida Lupino
The Art of Film: Vintage Hitchcock, the complete Janus Films documentary detailing the director's British period
• Excerpts from the original 1935 press book
• Original production design drawings

DVD Release Date: November 2, 1999
Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Carlton Visual Entertainment Ltd

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Special Features:
• English H.O.H. Subtitles
• Interactive Menus
• Biographies
• Stills Gallery
• 'Hitchcock: The Early Years' documentary

DVD Release Date: 13 August, 2001
Custom Case
Chapters: 23
Release Information:
Studio: ITV DVD
 

1080P / 23.976 fps Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,689,858,148 bytes

Feature: 13,900,661,952 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.45 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:
• Commentary by Marian Keene
• Art of Film Video Feature (28:57 in SD)
• The Lux Radio Theater Adaptation (59:53 -audio only!)
• On Location - (13:01)
• Photo Galleries

Blu-ray Release Date: October 19th, 2009
Standard (thick - UK)
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 15

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by Alfred Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane
• Hitchcock: The Early Years (2000), a British documentary covering the director’s prewar career (24:07)
• Original footage from British broadcaster Mike Scott’s 1966 television interview with Hitchcock (40:14)
• Complete broadcast of the 1937 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation, starring Ida Lupino and Robert Montgomery (59:52)
• New visual essay by Hitchcock scholar Leonard Leff (23:59)
• Audio excerpts from François Truffaut’s 1962 interviews with Hitchcock (22:16)
• Original production design drawings
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Cairns

Blu-ray Release Date: June 26th, 2012
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (May 2012): The Criterion Blu-ray transfer of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps is, technically, almost double the file size and bitrate of the earlier UK 1080P disc. This manifests itself primarily in the grain and contrast. Where the ITV was earthy-brown-to-almost-sepia at times the Criterion is grayish blue. The grain textures are more intact and while it may not blow-away its counterpart - it is the easy winner in terms of more film-like visuals. Just like the ITV - utilizing the same print - there are scratches and occasional fluctuating contrast. We trust this is the best The Masters 1935 classic can look for Home Theater presentation at the present time - and probably forever.

Audio is also a significant technical step forward with Criterion offering a lossless linear PCM track (the ITV was simple Dolby) in original mono. This remains a weaker part of the presentation but the uncompressed gives it a good go with clarity and consistency. I suspect it is very authentic. Criterion also offer optional English subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is, predictably, region 'A'-locked.

Criterion add-to and overlap some of the ITV extras with the audio commentary by Alfred Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane found on their 1999 DVD and the complete, hour-long, broadcast of the 1937 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation, starring Ida Lupino and Robert Montgomery. Criterion tack-on a cool new visual essay by Hitchcock scholar Leonard Leff running about 25-minutes, the 2000 UK produced Hitchcock: The Early Years documentary covering the director’s pre-war career - also at about 25-minutes and 40-minutes of original footage from British broadcaster Mike Scott’s 1966 television interview with Hitchcock. There are also 22-minutes of audio excerpts from François Truffaut’s 1962 interviews with The Master, some original production design drawings and a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Cairns.  

 I feel we would be piggish to ask for any more - the Criterion bests the ITV on all fronts, a/v and supplements. It's a wonderful vintage mystery-adventure with one of the more memorable endings. We strongly endorse the Criterion Blu-ray.

***

ADDITION: ITV - Region 'B' Blu-ray - October09: We've already seen reports of disgruntled purchasers who were expecting much more from this 1080P transfer. The trouble with this Blu-ray presentation is that there has been no restoration - digital or film-based. This IS 1080P but the imited transfer used was ineffectual in greatly benefiting from the improved resolution. We see more grain - and this is a good thing - but in, say, Criterion's hands the contrast could have been greatly improved by selectively, and gently, boosting the bitrate. The larger this ITV Blu-ray is projected the greater the superiority will be evident over the SD-DVDs. Even 40" systems, though, will see it - but it will be less dramatic than for those who project onto a 120" screen. Detail probably can't get much better - BUT the perception of improved detail with those increased black levels would definitely help the final 'look'. Technically this is only single-layered with the 1.5 hour feature taking up a scant 14 Gig. However, I have no proof that increasing this would dramatically improve the visuals. I'd like to think so - but other black + white HD transfers (see the original Blu-ray of Casablanca, a longer film, at only 15.5 Gig) remains modest on that front. So the title  requires a more robust rendering - and placed in the hands of a competent telcine operator/restoration expert (yes, you know who you are!). I'm certainly not dead-against digital manipulation if it is done with a deft enough hand to help reproduce a closer theatrical viewing. This is our final goal. Were we get upset is the blanketed use of heavy-handed digital techniques that destroy the integrity of the image. I'm not so bothered by the damage that this Blu-ray still reports. Some scratches appear both on top and under the surface as well as there being plenty of speckles and what appears to be dust/dirt. Depending on what you are looking for - this ITV rendering has far less noise and far more grain than either of the DVDs - but I still think it can look significantly better - if someone is willing to spend the money to do so. Let's hope.

The audio has nothing new to offer. It is not HD/lossless and a linear PCM track would have been the ticket. It remains a bit scattered and dodgy but nothing worse (or better ) than we have heard from the DVD transfers. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being, expectantly, region 'B'-locked.

Extras don't greatly advance upon the Criterion with the same adept Marian Keene commentary, 30-minute Art of Film Video featurette via Janus films in SD and the audio-only Lux Radio Theater Adaptation broadcast with Robert Montgomery and Ida Lupino running close to an hour. We also get a short 'On location' piece and photo galleries ('On Set' and 'Posters').

It has the appeal of being the first Hitchcock film to Blu-ray nudging out North By Northwest. But, frankly, disappointing that more has not been done with technical proficiency but if you were showing this for a special 'film night' - this would be the edition to choose (until Criterion releases in 1080P) - especially if you were projecting it on a large screen. This brings the potential audience to a small number - and while I enjoyed my viewing it only reminds me of how much I want to see this looking - and sounding - better. Still one the great older thrillers from 'The Master'.          

Gary W. Tooze

****

ON THE DVDs: This is a tough one to call on the image, but I think the Criterion is more true. It may be grainer but I don't see evidence of contrast boosting like I do with the Carlton disc. The R2 picture is softer  and therefore slightly less sharp. The Criterion wins big-time with the extras. Both transfers are excellent, but I think the Criterion is the overall winner.   

Gary W. Tooze

Pavel Borodin notes:

There are a lot of dark scenes in this movie and during some of them Criterion has some compression problems. For example, in the chapter No. 9 (of Criterion) there are one of the central scenes of the movie, the night scene with a lot of fog when Hanney and Pamella escape. The moving fog causes those quite annoying compression artifacts. The Carlton is also not perfect in this scene, but looks much better.
 
Since otherwise both transfers are quite similar, I suppose the Carlton is better.
The documentary on the Criterion consists almost only of scenes from different British Hitchcock movies with a narration (which makes it not so interesting in case you know and have all this movies), and the image quality is really awful.

DVD Menus

(Criterion Region 1 Left, Carlton Region 2 Right)


ITV Blu-ray Extras

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL SECOND
3) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL SECOND
3) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL SECOND
3) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL SECOND
3) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP
2)
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Box Covers
 

 

 

 

Distribution Criterion
Region 1 encoded ( North America ) 
Carlton Visual Entertainment Ltd
Region 2 - PAL 
ITV DVD
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray 
Criterion Collection - Spine # 56 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Criterion Blu-ray 

Sound:

Criterion Blu-ray 

Extras: Criterion Blu-ray 

 



   

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Gary Tooze

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