This DVD special edition was released to mark Hitchcockís 100th birthday and features a number of supplements about the film and the directorís career.
The least compelling of the bunch is an audio essay by Marian Keane. Iím not a fan of the Keane commentaries Iíve listened to. While she manages to cover interesting themes within this film, all of which appear in many other films by the director. Unfortunately she also has a gift at stating the obvious, simply narrating the action, has an amazing ability to read sex into anything (though itís nowhere near as bad as her track for Notorious) and is beyond bland in her delivery. Itís a painful track, one of the most obnoxious ones Iíve listened to and is basically the epitome of scholarly tracks gone wrong.
But this package makes up for that in a big way with other features, starting with a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film. It's the complete broadcast, including advertisements and a guest appearance by an ďex-spyĒ. Itís actually a surprising adaptation and fairly entertaining on its own and I especially loved the ads. The broadcast also plays over images of participants. It runs just shy of an hour.
A piece from a Janus series called "The Art of Film",which covers directors from certain eras is the next feature. The episode here is about Hitchcock and his work in England. It's fairly interesting but is mostly comprised of clips from his films with narration talking about some of the common themes found between his works and also goes into his style and technique. Also as a warning the whole story of The 39 Steps is given in the last 10 minutes of the segment so if you haven't seen this film yet watch the movie first then this documentary. The documentary runs about 29-minutes.
The coolest feature is the original press book feature which offers a nice reproduction of it that you can navigate through using your remote. You can either go through it page by page or jump to a certain section using an index. Also, in a nice stroke, with Criterion trying to take advantage of the DVD format of the time (finally getting away from laserdisc traps,) you can select certain segments from the book like a picture and zoom in on them. Or you can highlight the text of an article and then receive and easy to read text reproduction of the article that you can go through. Far better than simply photos and itís a technique Criterion would use in other releases.
Considering how old the film is I was surprised Criterion was able to round up production designs for the film. Though we only get a few, itís interesting to look through the development process that went into achieving the filmís look.
In all itís not a bad special edition but it feels slim when you discount the commentary (like I do.) A solid if unremarkable set of supplements. 6/10