More ways to tread “The Thirty-Nine steps”

Ryan Oestereich wants to enhance the Guthrie experience, which is honorable given he works with Minnesota Film Arts, an organization which might be seen as competing with the flagship theater.

He’s doing this by screening the Alfred Hitchcock film “The 39 Steps.” The film is the basis for the Guthrie’s theatrical spoof of the same name.

“When you go and see the play, it’s a riot, a ton of fun,” said Oestereich of the Joel Sass-directed production.

But Oestereich believes his organization can enhance the stage experience.

“There’s these inside jokes, you know particular characters, the funny relationship that goes between the two characters, in that Hitchcock thriller sense that gets a little lost, or goes over your head. However, if you have seen the film, and it’s great of course to always see a classic film on the big screen, then it becomes a better event. A more fun interactive, entertaining play.”

“And you know we are right across the river from the Guthrie so you could actually almost do a double feature.”

There certainly seems to be a renewed local interest in the 1935 classic film, based on the John Buchan novel. As of this writing the DVD is top of the Netflix rental chart in St Paul, and number 2 in Minneapolis (after local filmmaker Patrick Coyle’s ‘Into Temptation.’)

A spokesman from the Guthrie said they knew about the short three day run starting this evening at the MFA’s St Anthony Main complex, and thought it was a great idea.

Oestereich, who has learned the art of movie promotion from the grand old man of Twin Cities cinema Al Milgrom, knows how to build on something.

“Thanksgiving has become a juggernaut for Hollywood,” he said. “Everybody loves to go to the movie theater on Thanksgiving. It’s actually becoming more popular than Christmas.”

So that’s why he’s making a double feature with Wes Anderson’s portrait of familial dysfunction “The Royal Tennenbaums.”

“I can’t say how exactly it’s going to make you think about things,” he laughs. “Because it’s really two different ways about how humanity treats each other.”

Actually there is a little method behind the madness. These screenings are a prelude to new projectors being installed in one of the theaters in St Anthony Main which will allow more actual film, and as a result more repertory programming at MFA.

“I know a lot of people know Film Arts from the Oak Street’s great repertory calendars. We are going to create an incredible program that is going to balance both new international, documentaries and independent cinema with those classic films from all over the world that either you grew up with, or that you need to watch – it’s on the 1001 must-see movie list. But it’s going to be that brand new, beautiful, pristine print and the best way to see it of course is on the big screen.”

That will be early in the new year, and not long before the Guthrie launches its production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” So might there be a screening of the Cary Grant movie version of the play?

“If you were a betting man, I would bet on that,” Oestereich says confidently.

You can see selected extracts from the Guthrie “39 Steps” here, and get a sense of the original below.

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