It takes a lot of confidence to follow in the footsteps of a master. But Don Sharp has done just that. His version of "The 39 Steps" isn't really a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 classic. The story takes different twists and turns, and the climax is altogether changed. But it's still a gripping yarn, about a man who stumbles onto an international conspiracy and finds himself obliged to preserve the peace of England. And a delightfully Hitchcockian wit is still in evidence, as director Sharp takes his own approach to the original "39 Steps" novel by John Buchan.
The hero is played with artful restraint by Robert Powell, with David Warner as the leader of the bad guys. Eric Porter -- remember him from "The Forsyte Saga"? -- leads a solid supporting cast. Filmmaker Sharp nods to Hitchcock from time to time, especially in several clear references to another Hitchcock masterpiece, "North by Northwest." But "borrowings" like these are part of the fun of movies; and the ending of the new "39 Steps" is breathlessly entertaining even if it is lifted from Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last."
This is a cheerfully old-fashioned film, in style as well as substance. By all means, see Hitchcock's version as often as you can. But the new rendition has plenty of merits of its own.