Review of "The Lady Vanishes (Blu-ray)"

published 17/03/2016 | Jarisleif
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"Breaking News: Hitchcock's Lady Vanishes!"

A scene from the film.

A scene from the film.

The Lady Vanishes (1938)


Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Writing Credits: Ethel Lina White, Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder

Genre: Comedy | Mystery | Thriller

Length: 96 minutes

Certificate: U

IMDb Rating: 8.0

Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas

Crazy, but that's how it goes. Millions of people living as foes

The film starts with a notice from the British Board of Film Censors that says "The Lady Vanishes" 'has been passed for public exhibition to adult audiences'. Presumably it's not a video nasty, but maybe they were a little prudish back in those days, or maybe Hitchcock's reputation preceded him. You then get those early credits that tell you who the stars are, and a few of the crew, too. After those early introductions the cast credits roll again for some, strange reason. Anyway, onwards and upwards. We see a train station and a few people on a platform. They don't actually look like they're moving, and I suspect that it was just a model shot made up for the film. The elegant hotel lobby does have live bodies, however, and one elderly woman walks in and out, causing the wind to rush in when she does so. Two German men walk in and the hotel manager speaks to them firstly in German (which I don't understand) and then in Italian (which I don't understand either). So in short, I have absolutely no idea what was said. Two impeccably dressed Englishmen are discussing being held up by a delayed train, and it seems that the delay is all the fault of the poor hotel manager. As someone who has worked in that industry, I can attest that if something goes wrong, no matter how trivial, it is going to be your fault. I remember someone once demanded a discount because the snow outside forced him to stay indoors instead of going to work.

Maybe. It's not too late. To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

One thing I noticed early on was the bare legs of Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood). What's the problem with that, you might ask? Well, back in those days, I would wager that it was quite risqué to show women's legs in all their detail, especially on film. My wife said that her grandmother had to walk with ankles practically together, and a skirt should be no shorter than mid-calf length. When the room service attendant helped her down from the table, there was also a very brief flash of underwear. Something which was definitely taboo back in those days. Upon researching, I noticed that in 1934 a bill called the Hays Code was introduced, which forced productions to be very stringent in what they show. Indeed, the biggest thing to have been affected by the Hays Code wasn't even real. Betty Boop's skirts got longer after the code was introduced, which sounds a little preposterous in this day and age. While we may find that funny or ridiculous, people of the 1930s probably thought it was justified. Time travel does not exist but if it did and someone from the 30s saw a film like "Jaws", for example, they would be horrified at the imagery. Personally, I'd finish them off with "The Human Centipede" and have done with them! But back to "The Lady Vanishes", a short scene of two men in the same bed regardless of what wasn't happening was probably also extremely shocking to see back then.

Mental wounds not healing. Life's a bitter shame

The plot for the film is quite simple. Iris is on a train with an older lady called Miss Froy, played by May Whitty, when the latter seemingly disappears. Iris goes in search of her companion, while it seems that nobody else on the train remembers seeing her. I suppose this is where things get complicated for not just the plot of the film but for your reviewer, also. As I don't want to give away spoilers for those that haven't seen "The Lady Vanishes" and may want to, we will have to leave this part at that. What is intriguing is, all is not quite what it seems on the train to wherever. I can only sympathise with Iris and the problems she is apparently having during her journey, and it actually got me thinking about another British film that isn't really similar, but yet it is very alike. That film is a 1972 Hammer Productions thriller called "Fear in the Night", which starred Judy Geeson as a woman who is attacked in her own home, but nobody believes her. The similarities are that whatever either woman says they are not being taken seriously, and it is getting evermore frustrating for them to have to cope with it all. While I think about originality of films, it goes without saying that "The Lady Vanishes" was remade in 1979 with Cybill Shepherd in the title role. An executive from the Rank Organization defended the decision to remake the film by saying, "The old films suffer technically against today's. The pace of modern films is much faster. The style of acting is different. Those old actors were marvellous, but if you consult the man in the street, he's more interested in seeing a current artist than someone who's been dead for years." Now while I agree with the style of acting, I'm not so sure about not wanting to see these actors. If I only had two choices of films to watch one night and one of them was, for example, Gerard Butler in one of the latest horror films, or Christopher Lee in "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave", I know which one I would choose every time. You just can't beat the classics.

I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train

Obviously Alfred Hitchcock needs no introduction as a director, having made some of the biggest and most successful thrillers of all time, including the likes of "Psycho", "Rear Window" and "North by Northwest". What is unbelievable is that he never won an Academy Award for Best Director, although he was nominated five times. I thought that "The Lady Vanishes" was brilliantly made. It definitely starts slow, but when it gets going it is nothing short of amazing. The acting is sharp from all involved, and Margaret Lockwood is sensational as Iris Henderson. This is a film you're going to enjoy if you like the old black and white American film-noir style of picture, and definitely one to watch if you're even just a casual fan of Hitchcock's work. You wouldn't think you could get a few plot twists and turns with a film largely set on a moving train, but they are definitely here, and you never see them coming unlike "Under Siege 2" where you could see whatever was coming from an absolute mile away. As it stands, "The Lady Vanishes" is definitely worth watching, no matter what type of film you usually like. The video quality for the Blu-ray version is magnificent. For such an old film, you wouldn't actually believe how good it looks. There are no blemishes at all, although there is the occasional pop of white that appears now and then. The tell-tale crackling sound of old films has been digitally erased and the sound quality is much better, too. You also get a good booty of special features, comprising of an interview with Alfred Hitchcock himself, and another feature in which the director discusses making the film. There is also a commentary by a film historian, and a stills gallery. Best of all, you get a bonus feature film, "Crook's Tour". The film was directed by John Baxter and features Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne as Charters and Caldicott, who played two cricket lovers in "The Lady Vanishes".

My rating: 7.2/10


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Comments on this review

  • mikemelmak published 02/08/2016
    I'm a bit slow on the uptake - I've just noticed the Crazy Train lyrics you've cleverly used as headings. Ah, Randy is so sorely missed. I commend your excellent taste!
  • mikemelmak published 02/08/2016
    Love Hitchcock and a lot of his 30s B & W films are great too. I've this one and as you say, it's very good indeed.
  • justarube published 31/07/2016
    vh
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Product Information : The Lady Vanishes (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Genre: Thriller

Video Category: Feature Film

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Actor(s): Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Cecil Parker, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford

Director(s) (Last name, First name): Hitchcock, Alfred

Classification: Universal

EAN: 5027626707743

Production Year: 1938

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