At first glance The Lady Vanishes
appears to be a frothy, lightweight treat, a testament to Alfred Hitchcock's nimble touch. This snappy, sophisticated romantic thriller begins innocently enough, as a contingent of eccentric tourists spend the night in a picture-postcard village inn nestled in the Swiss Alps before setting off on the train the next morning. In a wonderfully Hitchcockian twist on "meeting cute," attractive young Iris (Margaret Lockwood) clashes with brash music student Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) when his nocturnal concerts give her no peace. She gets him kicked out of his room, so he barges in on hers: True love is inevitable, but not before they are both plunged into an international conspiracy. The next day on the train, kindly old Mrs. Froy (Dame May Whitty) vanishes from her train car without a trace and the once quarrelsome couple unite to search the train and uncover a dastardly plot. No one is as he or she seems, but sorting out the villains from the merely mysterious is a challenge in itself, as our innocents abroad face resistance from the entire passenger list. Hitchcock effortlessly navigates this vivid thriller from light comedy to high tension and back again, creating one of his most enchanting and entertaining mysteries. Though this wasn't his final British film before departing for Hollywood (that honor goes to Jamaica Inn
), many critics prefer to think of this as his fond farewell to the British Film Industry. --Sean Axmaker
In this best-loved of Hitchcock's British-made thrillers, a young woman on a train meets a charming old lady (Dame May Whitty), who promptly disappears. The other passengers deny ever having seen her, leading the young woman to suspect a conspiracy. When she begins investigating, she is drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure.