Sunday, November 30, 2008

39 Steps

The Guardian reports that the BBC1 is to show a new version of John Buchan's classic adventure story the Thirty Nine Steps on Boxing Day.

Written the best part of 100 years ago, this novel is still one of my favourites. Apparently, the plot has been changed yet again, with various classic scenes removed - although not from the original, but the excellent cinematic rewrites. I would love to see all of the movies in succession just to compare.

For the record, the full set is:

The novel, 1915

Available online to read thanks to Project Gutteburg, but it's a cheap enough paperback anyway.

The Hitchcock version, 1935

Stars Robert Donat as Hannay, visited by a spy being chased by assassins after uncovering a plot to steal British plans for a silent aircraft engine.

The Kenneth More vehicle, 1959

Ralph Thomas's remake stars Kenneth More who is introduced to the mystery by the death of a beautiful spy who told of a shadowy group, The 39 Steps, which stole plans for a British missile.

The Modern version, 1978

Starring Robert Powell, Don Sharp's film is set in the run-up to the First World War as foreign agents plan to bomb Parliament and kill a Greek leader. The 39 steps are the steps in Big Ben.

The BBC version, 2008

Rupert Penry-Jones, the former star of Spooks, in the lead role.

Anyway, how can you not love a novel whose opening paragraph is:
I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact. The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick, I couldn't get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been standing in the sun. 'Richard Hannay,' I kept telling myself, 'you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you had better climb out.'

Here's an advert for the new comedy at the Criterion theatre in London, which has been getting good reviews:

and some irrelevant but familiarly titled experimental music

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing that 39 steps is great. Last year when I was still at school they had an optional school trip to go see the play in London. I didn't go though because it was £30.