Written by: Ron Cotton on December 15th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: London, June 1935
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: John Buchan, Charles Bennett, Ian Hay
Cast: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle,
Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie, Helen Haye
|Approximate running time:||86m27s||85m20s|
|Aspect Ratio:||1.33:1 Full-Frame||1.33:1 Full-Frame|
|Sound:||Dolby Digital Mono English||Dolby Digital Stereo English|
|Region Coding:||Region 1 NTSC||Region 0 NTSC|
Criterion’s Region 1 DVD
Ranked in the top 10 of BFI’s Top 100 List, Richard Hanney involvement with Annabella Smith leads to her premature death, fingering him as the prime suspect. As the law pursues him over the Scottish Moors, Richard Hanney must uncover the truth surrounding conspiracy and prove his innocence. Fast-paced thriller remade twice and represents an atypical Hitchcock theme as found later in North by Northwest.
Both DVD releases present The 39 Steps in an Full Frame that preserves the films original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Criterion is a dual-layer release loaded with extras, while Digiview is simply a single-layer release as a DVD double feature (including Jamaica Inn). Digiview’s washed out image is clearly over contrasted in an unsuccessful attempt to hide the film prints blemishes. Digiview is littered with print damage, hairs and dust while Criterion’s restoration was done by hand utilizing the MTI Digital Restoration System. Digiview soft image lacks the clarity that Criterion offers. Digiview’s top edge has image loss – most likely caused from a poor analog to digital transfer. To my surprise, Digiview doesn’t have the representative compression squares found in other titles. Criterion, as with many of its releases, maintains the gold standard of film transfers. Images remaining crisp frame by frame in high action scenes.
Digiview’s liters its single audio track with film pops, crackle, and hiss complete in Stereophonic Sound. Digiview’s audio has characteristics of being boosted to higher decibels. Criterion’s Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is clean with an additional informative commentary audio track by Marian Keane. Criterion also offers clear to read English subtitles. Clearly, there’s no comparison.
Digiview includes an inferior transfer of Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. Criterion includes The complete 1937 radio broadcast, The Art of Film (Hitchcock’s British film featurette), original 1935 press book excerpts, and original production design drawings. Criterion remains ever-faithful to Hitchcock enthusiasts who love film.
Criterion’s transfer of 39 Steps in respects of both audio and video speaks volumes about how budget titles like Digiview offer little to avid DVD collectors. To Digiview’s defense, it’s extremely low price is perfect for those who want to preview Hitchcock’s British films before purchasing a Criterion release.