There have been three official remakes; I've seen two, and they hold no interest at all. But the film's basic tone and structure have been so influential that it's fair to say there are scores of unofficial versions. Not least of these is “North by Northwest”; Hitchcock never denied that “The 39 Steps” was the template for that later masterpiece.
That insight is from the best of the extras on Criterion's new video release — 40 minutes of raw interview footage of the director, shot for a 1966 TV show. The show itself has been lost; hence the raw footage. We also get “Hitchcock: The Early Years,” a 2000 British documentary, featuring a few survivors from the original crew. It runs about 25 minutes, as does a new “visual essay” by film historian Leonard Leff. Leff is relatively entertaining; I wish I could say the same about Marian Keane, who provides the wall-to-wall commentary track. Her reading of her obviously written-out lecture is too dry, and I found some of her analytical observations questionable.
There are two other notable audio-only extras: a 1937 radio adaptation, with Ida Lupino and
What's most important about the Criterion release is the quality of the transfer. Most of Hitchcock's British films slid into public domain status years ago. As a result, there have been scores of cheap, slapdash VHS and
"The 39 Steps" (Criterion,