Lady Vanishes 1938

The Lady Vanishes (1938)4.0 Stars

The other day I watched the 2013 version of The Lady Vanishes, which set me on the quest to watch the Hitchcock original, which I did tonight.  This wasn’t Hitch’s best movie, but it was still  a lot more entertaining than a lot of films that have come out in recent years.  What surprised me was how funny it was at points.  Hitchcock was giving the suspense and the drama of the story equal time with the light hearted humour.

The story is essentially the same as in the remake, in fact the remake actually made a bit more sense and asked the viewer to take fewer leaps of faith in believing the story.  That said, the original is a lot more quaint, more charming and is clearly handled by the master’s touch.

Margaret Lockwood plays Iris (Henderson this time) who befriends the sweet and unassuming Mrs. Froy (Dame May Whitty) who goes missing from her train compartment as Iris falls asleep.  Again we have a duchess, a mysterious masked patient, political intrigue, and a potentially helpful doctor.  This time Iris forms an adversarial friendship with Michael Redgrave in her attempt to find the missing English woman.  Redgrave plays Gilbert, a musician who had invaded the young lady’s hotel room the night before as she protested the noise he was making above her room.  Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford appear as Caldicott and Charters, a pair of English travellers who are more concerned with catching a cricket match than anything, but their rapport is so excellent that they comedically steal almost every scene they are in with their tongues firmly in cheek.  They were such a hit in this film that they reprised the Caldicott and Charters  roles in several other films and were paired in several other films together as well.  The overall mood of The Lady Vanishes is exciting as well as playful; indeed, this is a good mystery that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Lockwood is quite likeable as the spirited heroine and Redgrave is fun once he accepts the role of ally.

Some people have complained that the opening scenes of the film clearly contain model shots.  The alpine village is a model, as is the car “driving” through the town; the trains are at many points also obviously models, but I think that really adds to the charm of this film.  This was more than 75 years ago, it’s perfectly understandable why they didn’t do a lot of location shots.  I think it is a credit to the model makers that scenes like this can be built that are fairly realistic and believable.  Model scenery aside, Hitchcock really does capture the claustrophobic feel of a thriller by filming so well on the train.

Certainly The Lady Vanishes is an excellent film, and not just for Hitchcock fans.

Bottom Line: The Lady Vanishes was one of the last films Hitchcock made in England before leaving for Hollywood.


Posted on 15-03-05, in 4 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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