I’m about as popular as a dose of strychnine…
I actually know a man called Alfred Hitchcock! Something I'm surprised I've not brought up sooner. I work with him on shows sometimes; he lives on a barge on the river Thames. Coincidentally, I watched this film on a barge on the river Thames too! Well, technically the Kennet and Avon canal by the time we'd moored up, but we had come off the Thames that day. Anyhow's (that's a more visually pleasing word then I thought it would be; note to self, use more often)… I've been meaning to ask him for a long time if his name was a deliberate homage or not. I must do that and report my findings back here…
After watching North by Northwest, closely followed by The 39 Steps and Saboteur, I feel like I've seen the same plot rehashed in a few different ways and synopsis-wise this sounded like it could have gone the same way, but it didn't. I felt, however, that I was somehow viewing those plots through a mirror… Instead of the man on the run dragging around a reluctant woman, it was the woman who was at the centre of the mystery and the man who was being dragged into it, although far less reluctantly than the heroins of the aforementioned movies!
I may re-watch this one at some point as,for the first time in this endeavour I started to nod off about 2/3rds of the way through the film, which I put down completely to a long day and a 5 hour stint at the tiller of a narrow boat through a fairy demanding waterway, not the film at all!
I liked that, whilst this theme had a slight comedic feel to it - with witty remarks the love-hate relationship between the two main characters and the two English men who simple COULDN'T miss the cricket match - it still carried a good pace and general level of sustained threat, perpetuated by the mystery disappearance and insistence of several passengers that the 'Lady' did not exist at all (which leads us to believe that not everyone can be trusted). In almost a complete contrast to Saboteur, in which all the ensemble must decide whether or not to trust the main protagonist, it becomes the leading lady's (Iris Henederson, played by Margaret Lockwood) task to work out who she can and can't trust instead.
I also like to imagine what it must have been like for Hitchcock to film so many scenes on trains… especially with the confined spaces. I presume he must have used cutaway carriages in many scenes in order to achieve the camera angles… makes me think of the big cut away boat in the Life Aquatic! That line of thought may actually answer some of the technical difficulties of incorporating the train scenes into the Number Seventeen story if I ever produced it on stage… 'if' I ever became a producer, of course!