Monday, October 25, 2010
The Lady Vanishes
Posted by Landshark
I was just thinking to myself the other day that it looked like I wouldn't be seeing a 5 star movie this Horrorthon. Then I impulsively popped this old Hitchcock (his 2nd to last before leaving England for America) in this evening. Damn.
What do you do if you get a knock on the head just as you're boarding a train for home. An elderly lady helps you to a seat and is there pampering you when you wake up. She takes you to the diner car for tea, and you have a charming discussion. Her names rhymes with "joy," after all, as she points out. The two of you then head back to crowded seating car, where she tells you to take a nap while she does an acrostic in the newspaper.
Upon waking, you find the old lady is gone, and everyone on the train lies to your face about there having never been a woman there at all.
This is the eerie and suspenseful premise of The Lady Vanishes, and it has immediately jumped into the upper pantheon of my favorite Hitchcock movies. For while the premise is indeed psychologically terrifying, the movie itself carries a lightness and sense of fun that exist alongside, without diminishing, the thriller aspects. Indeed, I've seen it suggested that this movie became the blueprint for the romantic comedy thriller, and it does have the feel of one of those classics that upon seeing, you get a sense of deja vu from all the times it's been copied.
I'm pretty sure I had a visible smile on my face for most of this one...I certainly laughed out loud more than a few times. And it occurred to me as the closing credits rolled that I'd be totally happy firing the DVD player back up to sit through the movie again right away. I can't remember the last time I had that response to a movie.
It almost seems trivial to pick apart specific aspects here that work so well--nothing doesn't work. But I must say there's a completely iconic portrayal of dull British snobbery in these 2 upper class cricket-obsessed twits. Totally unforgettable characters.
Michael Redgrave is also fantastic as the male romantic lead--this was his first film in transitioning from the stage (on the advice of John Gielgud, incidentally), and it made him a major star overnight.
I'm going to close with this cute anecdote from Truffaut that I came across when looking for images for this review. I borrowed the book version of the Hitchcock/Truffaut conversations from a friend a few years back, but I didn't remember this exchange:
The Lady Vanishes is an illusionist’s trick in which one never really wants to outguess the trickery. François Truffaut, who claimed that he often caught it twice in a single week, told Hitchcock: “Since I know it by heart, I tell myself each time that I’m going to ignore the plot (and study the technique and effect). But each time, I become so absorbed by the characters and the story that I’ve yet to figure out the mechanics of the film.”
at 9:33 PM