In common with many of his films, Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) contains a McGuffin. This is the loot in a heist film, or the secret in a spy story. It's vital to the plot, but it doesn't actually matter what it is. The McGuffin in The 39 Steps is the details of a British engine which will presumably win us the next war. Instead of just writing down the information, they decide to smuggle it out inside the head of "Mr Memory", who makes his living on the stage, amazing audiences by reciting facts and figures on request. In the end the villains' plan is scuppered in a music hall where Mr Memory is appearing. He is fatally shot, though, and with his dying breath gives his final performance in front of the shocked crowd:
The first feature of the new engine is its greatly increased ratio of compression represented by R minus one over R to the power of gamma. Where R represents the ratio of compression, and gamma seen in an elevation, the axis of the two lines of cylinders, angle of sixty-five degrees. Dimensions of cylinders as follows: This device renders the engine completely silent. Am I right, sir?
Quite right, old chap.
Thank you, sir. Thank you. I'm glad it's off my mind at last.
Thus Britain's secrets are safe. Obviously the theatre was full of patriots who wouldn't dream of breathing a word to the Powers of Evil. Or possibly it was full of people like me, who wouldn't have remembered any of it. At least not by the time war was declared 4 years later.
I'd be a hopeless memory man. Some people talk about vivid childhood memories. I can't even remember what I had for lunch the day before yesterday. So my childhood is like a foggy haze. I don't know whether that's the same for most people, or whether I've just got a defective memory unit in my brain.
All of this is leading, of course, to yet more retro TV. I vaguely remember watching The Incredible Hulk when I was younger, but none of the details. So when they were offering the first two series for £15 a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist getting it. I think my local HMV sees me coming now, and makes sure there are plenty of budget 70's and 80's TV series on the shelves specially. They're certainly getting more of my money than they would otherwise.
Of course, where HMV will really cash in is on Series 3-5. Helena is now a Hulk addict, and so we are steaming through our box set. Which means that I'll have to buy the other 3 which I expect won't be on discount.
As with most of this retro-TV, it's a lot better than I imagined it would be. The only problem I have with it is the idea that just because this guy gets angry, he is able to turn into a completely different and green person. And that his trousers still fit the giant hulk. Helena is also amused by the fact that he always manages to retrieve his brown bag by the end of each episode.
Interestingly, the chap responsible for doing the TV adaptation wanted to make the Hulk red, but Marvel Comics wouldn't let him. He reasoned that people get red with anger.
I'm not sure it would have been such a good idea...