The Lady Vanishes
The Criterion Collection
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In Alfred Hitchcock s most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe by train, meets Dame May Whitty s charming old spinster, who seemingly disappears into thin air. Soon enough, the young woman turns investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure. The Lady Vanishes, now in an all-new digital transfer, remains one of the master filmmaker s purest delights.
Alfred Hitchcock had hit his early, near-flawless stride by the time of The Lady Vanishes, the 1938 classic that seems as bright and funny now as the day it was released. After the deliciously comic opening reels at a mittel-European hotel where a train has been snowed in, the plot kicks into gear: a very nice old lady (Dame May Whitty) suddenly disappears in mid-train ride. Worse, the young woman (Margaret Lockwood) who'd befriended her can't find anybody to confirm that the lady ever actually existed. Luckily, suave gadabout Michael Redgrave is at the ready--to say nothing of two English cricket fans, brought to memorable life by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne. The film bops along briskly, borne along on the charm of the players and the witty script by expert craftsman Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (who also did the delightful Green for Danger and the St. Trinian's films), to say nothing of Hitchcock's healthy sense of humor about the whole thing--indeed, it may be the most "British" of his films. --Robert Horton
On the DVD
This two-disc package is the second time Lady has been issued by Criterion, and features a (visually and aurally) improved transfer of the film. It retains a commentary from the earlier release, but adds tasty extras: a half-hour documentary from Leonard Leff (standard stuff, but a nice intro to Hitchcockian ideas), plus a 10-minute audio excerpt from Francois Truffaut's legendary book-length interview with Hitch. This is not only a good way to hear Hitchcock on The Lady Vanishes, it's a fascinating ringside seat at an important moment in film history. And then there's Crook's Tour, a fun 1941 feature comedy vehicle for Charters and Caldicott, the two characters played by Radford and Wayne (they'd been such a hit in The Lady Vanishes that audiences demanded more of them, leading to a long-term teaming in film and radio). All good--but Lady itself is the ride you'll be returning to again and again. --Robert Horton
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Top customer reviews
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Dame May Whitty is marvelous as are all the major players in this exuberant treat from Alfred Hitchcock. I could hardly believe Michael Redgrave was ever so young in his role of a mischievous musicologist and Margaret Lockwood as a somewhat jittery bride-to-be is a delight. Paul Lukas is perfect as the smooth-talking doctor. Director Hitchcock always appears briefly in his films, and if you look carefully, at the very end of the film, you'll see him on the platform of Victoria Station, clad in a black coat and puffing on a cigarette as he walks along and disappears. The mixed bag of characters on the train include a mysterious nun who wears high heels underneath her habit, a pair of adulterers, a pair of cricket nuts and even a Nazi-type or two.
Since other reviewers have described the plot of "Lady" well, I won't repeat a description of the plot except that an old lady (Whitty) disappears on a train bound from Europe to London. I don't recall any movie of Hitchcock's that is so hilarious, especially the scene in the baggage car where Redgrave and Lockwood search for the vanished lady among various traveling pets including a calf, white pigeons and rabbits. However, throughout the entire film Hitchcock is getting a big laugh out of the way people behave. Most people are faintly ridiculous when you come right down to it. A great film which will give you many a giggle.
The Lady Vanishes stars Margaret Lockwood (a Vivien Leigh lookalike and
the young Michael Redgrave). British passengers travel through a mythical Central European nation. An elderly woman Mrs. Froy disappears leading to a search for her by Lockwood and Redgrave. Along the way we meet the bumbling overgrown schoolboy friends Caldicott and Charters; engage in a duel with the diabolically evil Dr. Hartz and find help from a fake nun dressed in high heels!
While the plot is less than realistic the fun and suspense are top notch. The cheap sets and poor sound quality remind us that the British film industry was technologically way behind the boys and girls at MGM
and the other Hollywood film factories of the era.
The best DVD on this classic is the Criteriorn DVD featuring an excellent film commentary by film historian Bruce Eder.
This films is not as well known as Hitch's American masterpieces but was an important chapter in his book of murder and suspense.
Excellent and worth watching several times!
The movie, in B&W, begins rather slowly with the development of the main characters. The mystery/action finally unfolds 30+ minutes into the film. Despite the slow start, it contains all the elements of a great suspense film with wonderful actors and actresses.
If you want blood and gore, foul language, and sexual scenes then move on. This movie is not for you.
If you like classic pre-war movies, you'll like this one. Add Hitchcock to the film, and you have a must-see. Another movie similar to this is "The Ghost Train."