Posted: 02/21/2010


The 39 Steps

by Del Harvey

Premiering Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 9pm ET on PBS

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Secret agent Richard Hannay battles German spies on the eve of World War I in a riveting and romantic new version of the classic thriller by John Buchan, made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 movie starring Robert Donat and Madeline Carroll.

Just returned to England on the eve of World War I, Richard Hannay’s (Rupert Penry-Jones, Persuasion) listless London life spirals out of control when a neighbor bursts into his apartment. The neighbor carries a top-secret notebook full of cryptic codes and a frantic story of an impending assassination, setting unlikely patriot Hannay on the run to save himself and his country.

Hannay is thus plunged into the cloak-and-dagger intrigue that precedes the outbreak of World War I. Pursued by police, but also chased by German agents who want the secret notebook, he makes his way to Scotland, where a German spy ring is executing a plan that will render Britain defenseless against invasion.

Along the way, he is joined by combative suffragette Victoria Sinclair, who at first mistakes him for a liberal politician, but is unfazed to learn that he is an accused murderer and, she thinks, a “delusional maniac” on the subject of German espionage plots.

Dangers and surprises lurk everywhere as Hannay and Victoria try to save Britain in her most perilous hour — none as great as what awaits them at the bottom of the “39 steps.”

But like it or not, they’ll together navigate murder, betrayal and near death in order to untangle a plot of national importance, and understand the charms and challenges of human nature.

MASTERPIECE favorite Rupert Penry-Jones (Persuasion) stars as Hannay, with Lydia Leonard (Jericho) as suffragette Victoria Sinclair, his unlikely accomplice in a quest to expose German plans to destroy the British navy and invade the country.

For more information on this bracing and romantic thriller, click here.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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