Review: The Lady Vanishes (1938)

I figured it was about time that I got back around to that Hitchcock fellow!

Screenplay By: Sidney Gillat & Frank Launder
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

The Lady Vanishes is a very British movie, and that is one of the reasons I love it so. The way the characters approach the problem in the film is very British and the way they react to what is happening around them is also very British. I know it sounds weird to say, but there is also a lot of British silliness to be found in The Lady Vanishes. Around a dire story Alfred Hitchcock and the writers have set up a restrained madcap caper of sorts and it works in a very British way.

Trust me, I’m not trying to bludgeon you to death with the British angle, but I am bringing it up a lot because of how integral my reading of the Britishness of The Lady Vanishes was to my enjoyment of the film. The moment when all the British characters finally realize they really are in the middle of some sort of spy game exemplifies my point. The characters don’t react with riled up anger or disgust, nope, their reaction is a very stoic one. The characters of Caldicott and Charters go about their same dismissive argumentative ways, while the other characters simply dismiss the truth as preposterous. Amid a sea of intrigue Mr. Hitchcock has infused a large dose of humor. I often found myself somewhere in between on the edge of my seat and laughing while watching The Lady Vanishes.

The build to getting on the train is the only quibble I have with The Lady Vanishes. It was necessary from a story standpoint, but it did feel stretched out. I knew that Mr. Hitchcock was setting up the happenings to come, but I wanted him to speed through the set-up more than he did. Maybe I was just being inpatient, but I was enamored with The Lady Vanishes as soon as it hit the train. That just made the stretches before the train feel that much more elongated.

The time spent on the train was a lot of fun. As I said earlier there were elements of the spy game at play, as well as some comedic leanings and a bit of a madcap caper feel. Mr. Hitchcock, and the writers, also did a splendid job of casting doubt on Iris’ story. Sure, the audience had seen Miss Froy, but the more the other characters doubted her the more that the hallucination theory began to hold weight. That makes the moments when Iris and Gilbert discover cracks in the machinations of their fellow train passengers all the more enjoyable. Again, it’s also the British reactions that take place during these revelations that add to the enjoyment. Iris spends the entire movie acting very put out while Gilbert acts as if every new revelation is old hat to him. The intrigue is high, but it is high because of the actions of the characters and that makes the film easier to become engaged with.

The Lady Vanishes is an Alfred Hitchcock film through and through. It’s also interesting that The Lady Vanishes is one of the funniest films from Mr. Hitchcock and it took place right before his more serious period of films, most notably Rebecca. I prefer a film like The Lady Vanishes to the more serious work of Mr. Hitchcock. The Lady Vanishes is serious when it needs to be, and it does a great job of putting its characters in dire situations with a healthy amount of tension. But, The Lady Vanishes is also a lot of fun, with many great comedic moments and a lot of snappy comedic dialogue. It may not be considered top tier Alfred Hitchcock by most folk, but The Lady Vanishes is definitely top tier in my eyes.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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7 responses to “Review: The Lady Vanishes (1938)

  1. Such a fun and hilarious movie – love it!

  2. Yep, it really is amazing the ear Hitchcock had for humor, a trait he doesn’t get enough credit for I don’t think.

  3. You obviously haven’t seen Mr. and Mrs. Smith yet Bill. That’s probably why he never receives credit.

  4. I actually have, wrote up a review of it for this here bloggity blog. :) That falls into Hitchcock’s serious phase for me. He was so intent on impressing upon Hollywood that he was serious that even a film like Mr. And Mrs. Smith that was supposed to be a straight up comedy ended up being devoid of humor. Luckily he would quickly regain his humor and go back to making me laugh along with being serious.

  5. Pingback: Review: Jamaica Inn (1939) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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