Funny in parts
Tense at times
Very much of the time
Black and White
I seem to be reviewing lots of old films and music lately. However, this is partly due to the 2009 Christmas Holidays. With some time on my hands and old faithfuls being shown on UK televsion daily I have been reminded once again that there are some terrific old classics around.
The original Lady Vanishes was released in 1938 and directed by the late, great Alfred Hitchcock. The film has been remade since but the version with Sybil Shepherd, Angela Lansbury and Elliott Gould, in the lead roles, is not a patch on the original.
The film is set in a fictional country, just prior to the Second World War. This country has many similarities to Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The Lady Vanishes is one of those thrillers which has elements of comedy, amongst the tension.
We are introduced to the main characters, as they are held up due to an avalanche. They are all about to travel on a long train journey which will cross the country's borders. As they stay overnight at a local hotel we are introduced to the main characters.
A young Michael Redgrave, plays the male lead Gilbert, who is a somewhat eccentric English Gentleman. The female lead is taken by Margaret Lockwood, Iris, who I suppose is what would be termed a wild child these days.
The train resumes it's journey the next day and we see more of the passengers. As well as Iris and Gilbert, these consist of:-
A couple of frumpy guys who are 'typically British' and talk of nothing but cricket. Nauton Wayne and Basil Radford played these two men and they are seen together in similar roles, in a few films after this.
An elderly governess, Miss Froy, who, having worked abroad for many years, is returning to England.
A business man and his mistress, who are trying not to be observed.
The train picks up a doctor and a couple of nuns at a station. These are accompanying a sick patient who is all bundled up in bandages and boards the train on a stretcher, or so it seems.
The clue to this film is in the title. Quite literally the Lady Vanishes, or perhaps she never existed after all? Is she merely a figment of Iris's imagination? Is her presence simply due to the bump on the head which Iris has endured.
At the time of it's release this film would have been very fresh and new. It was based on a book by Ethel Lina White, but the plot of the film is quite different and unusal. The genre is mystery thriller but there are a fair few laugh out loud moments. Alfred Hitchcock, as always, is there playing a cameo role.
The Lady Vanishes was made in black and white and will appear very dated to many viewers. The steam trains alone give it a period piece feel, as do the ladies fashions. However, it has become somewhat of a classic film and has a great cast. If you have never watched this film before give it a whirl. DVD copies can be purchased quite cheaply and it can be viewed on television from time to time.
The is a much later version of this film but, despite its great cast, is not as successful or entertaining as the original. Much of the appeal of the original film is after all in the stereo-typical English characters which are all played so beautifully.
The film is written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.
The cast includes:-
Dame May Whitty
The running Time is 97 minutes