Monday, February 4, 2008

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

"The Lady Vanishes" (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938) Poor Iris Matilda Henderson has "been everyhwere and done everything," and is on her way to marry what her travelling companions call a "blue-blooded check-chaser" when she gets beaned by a suspiciously-unanchored flower box. She is helped onto her departing train and administered to by the elderly Miss Froy, a vacationing governess in love with the music of the Alps. Waking up from a recuperative nap, Iris discovers the woman missing, and what's worse, no one on the train claims to have seen her. Is everyone on the train lying, or has Iris just imagined the whole thing? The only ally she can find is the eccentric and rather obnoxious musicologist (Michael Redgrave, father of Lyn and Vanessa, and grandfather of Joely Richardson), whose racket has kept her awake nights at their lodgings. But now he comes to her aid ("My father taught me to never desert a lady in trouble. In fact I think that's why he married my mother!") to determine just what's been lost--the old lady or Iris' mind. Redgrave supposedly didn't get on with Hitchcock, and didn't have much respect for movie-acting, either--until another cast member saw him on-stage and wondered why he was so brilliant on the boards and so lackluster on-screen. For his part, Hitchcock took the material and accentuated the comedy and sexual situations, giving each of the train participants their own contrary behavior. It proved to be one of the most beloved of Hitchcock's British films, and legitimately can stand up to any of "The Master of Suspense's" later classics.

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