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United Kingdom 1938
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
93 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Lady Vanishes

Although technically quaint (the opening sequence that uses a model railway as a stand-in for the real thing stands out in this respect) by contemporary standards for a suspense thriller this, Hitchcock’s last British film is still very watchable. This is largely because until the lady (Dame May Whitty) does what the title states, and this is well into the film, Hitchcock and leading British screenwriters Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder serve up an entertaining comedy of manners with Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave in the lead with support from Cecil Parker, Basil Rathbone and Naunton Wayne (the latter two as the cricket lovers, Charters and Caldicott) in a classic Englishmen-abroad scenario (the women are decidedly secondary characters).

When the action thriller aspect takes over from the persiflage it is both well-plotted and well-executed and one can imagine that a contemporary audience would have found it, if not the equivalent to a James Bond film, at very least an exciting adventure film complete with acts of derring-do and evil foreign types and leavened with tongue-in-cheek humour. In other words, first class popular entertainment. Hitchcock makes his trademark appearance at the end of the film as the man at Victoria Station who walks by with a cigarette.

FYI: The film was remade in 1979 directed by Anthony Page with Elliot Gould, Cybill Shepherd and Angela Lansbury in the principal roles. Perhaps surprisingly, given the aforementioned quaintness, it was a travesty that makes Hitchcock's original look like a masterpiece.

DVD Extras: Audio Commentary by Dr Brian McFarlane, Monash University; Insert booklet essay, The Surrealism of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes by Ken Mogg; Original theatrical trailer

Available from: Madman




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