SECRET AGENT
1936, BFI, 86 min, UK, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Based on stories by W. Somerset Maugham, this espionage tale stars John Gielgud as Richard Ashenden, a British officer dispatched to Switzerland to kill a German spy. Sent to assist him on the mission are seasoned assassin (and scene-stealer) Peter Lorre and Madeleine Carroll, who is posing as Ashenden’s wife – which does little to stop suave Robert Young from chasing her. With several years of sound filmmaking under his belt, Hitchcock makes brilliant use of such audio effects as a sustained organ note and a dog’s howl.


THE 39 STEPS
1935, MGM Repertory, 86 min, UK, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

"What are the 39 Steps?" And why is a network of foreign spies so desperate to stop stalwart hero Robert Donat from uncovering the mystery of this most cryptic of Hitchcock puzzles? And will lovely Madeleine Carroll really come to trust that Donat is an innocent man and not an escaped criminal running from the law? With its nonstop suspense, breathtaking setpieces and brain-twisting plot turns, THE 39 STEPS set the pattern for nearly all the great Hitchcock thrillers to come.


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