The Lady Vanishes (1938)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Lady Vanishes</strong> (1938)

(On TV, July 2018) Alfred Hitchcock made a number of rather good movies in 1930s Great Britain before moving to Hollywood, and The Lady Vanishes does have the hallmarks of many of his later movies: An intriguing premise, a train, some romance, a substantial psychological dimension, comedy, thrilling elements, an action-packed conclusion and a musical leitmotif. The film opens at a leisurely pace (with an opening sequence that features a zoom-in on a building that appears impossible in a pre-helicopter, pre-CGI age … until we realize it’s a scale model), introducing the passengers on a train trip in European countries. The plot gets kicking once our protagonist realizes that a sweet old lady has gone missing from the train and that everyone she meets swears that the lady was never there. They’re lying, of course, and the cover-up soon leads her to a far more dangerous situation. The ending gets out of the train but not in any kind of safety as bullets fly in the middle of the woods. The abrupt ending nonetheless managers to wrap everything up with a laugh. It still works rather well today because Hitchcock’s style defined modern thrillers and his willingness to use genre elements means that the suspense has travelled well throughout the decades. Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave make for a cute couple, especially as they pair up to uncover the mystery. This being said, I suspect that Hitchcock students will get the most out of The Lady Vanishes by pointing out how it contains themes and tropes that the director would re-use over his career.

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