Friday, December 13, 2013

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Beefing on Hitchcock
The Lady Vanishes

Iris Henderson meets a cast of characters including an elder governess, Miss Froy, whilst boarding a train to England. After getting to know Miss Froy, Iris takes a short nap and upon awakening finds the lady gone. The people around her and all throughout the train insist they don't remember the woman at all, and believe Iris to be insane. Soon, Iris finds the obstinate man she met the night before and enlists his help to find the lady, as he is the only person who even remotely believes her story.

The Lady Vanishes was the last of Hitchcock's British films before heading to the States. Despite the prior three films doing poorly, it was this movie that caused producer David O Selznick to want Hitchcock for his own company. This was a deal that would ultimately benefit both Selznick and Hitchcock... as well as motion picture history, because what followed would become regarded as some of the best films ever made and would affect the way people made movies from then on.

Back to The Lady Vanishes however, I could safely say it's a nearly perfect film. The premise, plot, character, and macguffin set-up in the first act is practically flawless, and even things you don't quite realize will be important are slipped in quickly and quietly. The second act leaves you wondering, along with the rest of the characters, if Iris actually is crazy. You want to believe her, because after all you saw the woman too... but you can't help but wonder if Hitchcock isn't just playing tricks on the audience at the same time. (Something he would actually do in a few later films, showing you something only to spring it later that it was all in the mind of the character.) The third act is a good solid pay-off, wrapping up all of the elements shown earlier into one big bow of an ending.

It's no wonder the movie impressed Selznick, and it is a fantastic end to Hitchcock's British era. I would gladly recommend the Criterion blu ray release to anyone wanting to see the best possible transfer of this film, with the best set of features included. It satisfies everything you'd expect from any of the best Hitchcock films, and it leaves you happy with the end product as a whole.

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