The Lady Vanishes (Criterion Collection Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
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In Alfred Hitchcock’s most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood (Night Train to Munich), traveling across Europe by train, meets a charming spinster (Dame May Whitty, Suspicion), who then seems to disappear into thin air. The younger woman turns investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure. Also starring Michael Redgrave (The Browning Version), The Lady Vanishes remains one of the great filmmaker’s purest delights.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
That said, I am glad that Criterion Collection decided to include this title. The film elements look quite good considering the age of the negatives and how they were probably stored (without much care I'm guessing). The sound is as good as one can hope given the audio technology of the time (1939-World War Two was only just about to start!). Occasionally dialogue is not quite as crisp as I would like, but this is nothing too bothersome. All in all, this is a film that everyone should see at least once-certainly every film student or fan of Hitch.
THE LADY VANISHES was the last film that Alfred Hitchcock made in Great Britain before leaving for a long stay in Hollywood. I consider this one to be the second best of the films he made in England during the thirties, only surpassed by THE 39 STEPS. Of all the films that Hitchcock made, THE LADY VANISHES probably best blends both the suspense and the humor he loved to inject into every film. In fact, this film is funnier than many pure comedies. The scene where Basil Radford hijacks a long distance telephone call, only to shout to the operator, "How's England?!" only to mean thereby, "What has happened in Cricket?" is a classic. This is also yet another of Hitchcock's great train films. No major director used trains as often and as well as Hitchcock, and this is his finest effort in the genre.
The cast for this film is easily the best of any of Hitchcock's 1930s films, and holds up well against any of his American films. Michael Redgrave manages to project both the humor and seriousness that Hitchcock preferred in his leading men, and Margaret Lockwood, although not blonde, makes an excellent leading lady. But it is the supporting cast that makes this film so delectable. Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford appear as "Caldicott" and "Charters," and as a pair of appalling Britishers abroad, they very nearly steal the movie. They were such a hit in this film that they became an instant team, and were paired in many additional films together.Read more ›
Iris (Margaret Lockwood) is having a last girl's-night-out with her best friends, at a small Alpine hotel. As she's leaving on the train, she befriends a kindly little old governess (Dame May Whitty) -- who vanishes while Iris is napping. Even worse, everyone denies that the old lady existed, making Iris wonder if she imagined the whole thing.
She enlists the help of eccentric musician Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) to help her find the old lady, once they are both convinced that the lady existed. Now the pair must go through the train in search of the old lady -- but they never expected to uncover an international conspiracy, which could leave them all dead.
"The Lady Vanishes" was a pretty early movie of Hitchcock's, and at the end we're left wondering about several oddities in the plot (how is an eighty-year-old lady so athletic? How inept can those foreign agents BE?). As a spy thriller it's flawed but passable... but it's very good as a comedic mystery.
Hitchcock takes his time introducing us to these characters, by having them all bunk at one overcrowded hotel. One particularly funny scene has Gilbert invading Iris's suite, after she has him ejected from his room, and strewing his things all over as she orders him to leave. But Hitchcock also captures the claustrophobic feeling of being menaced on a train.Read more ›
Although many of Hitchcock's British films of this period seem somewhat amateurish, as if he were experimenting with what he could do with film, The Lady Vanishes scarcely seems to strike a false note. I've seen the film almost a dozen times, and each time I like it more. The wit and charm of this picture doesn't diminish with age--if anything it increases.
A note: since The Lady Vanishes is out of copyright, there are many editions available. The best one by far is the Criterion Collection's edition, with restored picture and sound. It also features a fascinating commentary track by film historian Bruce Eder. It's a bit pricey, but well worth in in my opinion.
Most recent customer reviews
I have seen many versions of The Lady Vanishes ,but this version by Alfred Hitchcock's is the best, I am so pleased to have it in my collection. Joan APublished on Nov. 26 2013 by J. M. Arnold
Oops a "Freudian slip." Reference to a song that came out in the same year as the movie.
This Hitchcock movie is based on the book "The Wheel Spins", by Ethel Lina... Read more
The quality is quite good but it is probably not possible to improve them any more than this. These movies are a little too old for me. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2011 by Movie Nut
This was a waste of money. The disk would not play on any machine. Don't buy thisPublished on Oct. 30 2009 by Simon Parker
Spunky Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) boards a train in Eastern Europe on her way to be married in England. Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2009 by Kona
Alfred Hitchcock wasn't too good at straight-out comedy, which he only did once that I can remember. Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2007 by EA Solinas
First the usual warnings: caveat emptor, you get what you pay for, etc. etc. etc., yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. Read morePublished on May 4 2004 by C. T. Mikesell
This is early Hitchcock and you can see the talent that was already there. He made this story into a great suspense film, even though there were quite a few implausibilities. Read morePublished on April 9 2004 by Anonymous