The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Like many rich young ladies in 1938, Iris is taking a year out to travel around Europe before she gets married. In the crumbling Swiss hotel where she's staying, she meets a kindly old lady, apparently a former governess, who offers to look after her when she receives a knock on the head. They board a long-distance train together, take tea, have a chat, and then Iris, her head still aching, takes a nap. When she wakes up she discovers that her companion is missing and that nobody else on the train will acknowledge that she ever existed.

Despite having all the elements of a classic Hitchcock mystery, this is really one for fans of the master's early, funny films. Its paranoid central plot is balanced by a playful sense of humour, though as time goes on the jokes get rather darker in tone. Our heroine finds assistance from the fellow passenger she most despised, and there are little hints of a possible romance, despite her affianced status. It's hard to believe otherwise after they tumble around together in the luggage van, he trying to tackle a foe in a scene where Hitchcock makes digs at the popular film heroine's passivity. Cute animals peer at this from the tops of their containers, but soon we're in darker territory, with a mysterious bandaged patient aboard the train, hints of guns and poison, and the suggestion of a powerful conspiracy.

Copy picture

Although this film has a U certificate, it certainly knows how to be creepy, and smaller children may find it distressing. Adults, however, will be fondly counting down the classic spy motifs and admiring Hitchcock's dazzling, innovative photography. It's a shame that the impact of this latter has been somewhat blunted by imitation, but it's still a visually remarkable film, and would be well worth watching for that alone. It's also witty, energetic and sly, and well worth an hour and a half of your time.

Reviewed on: 08 Jan 2008
Share this with others on...
The Lady Vanishes packshot
Young Iris is horrified when the woman she has been talking to on a train disappears and no-one seems to remember her.
Amazon link

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Writer: Sidney Gilliat, based on the book by Ethel Lina White.

Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Cecil Parker, Linden Travers, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford

Year: 1938

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK

Festivals:


Search database: