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The Lady Vanishes
BLU-RAY disk
Dec 22, 2011 By: Mathew Plale
The Lady Vanishes order
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock

Actors:
Margaret Lockwood
Michael Redgrave
Dame May Whitty

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
On a Britain-bound train, a woman (Lockwood) desperately searches for an elderly governess (Whitty) who none of the other passengers recall ever seeing her.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Iris has dined and played all over the globe and so, she admits, has only one thing left to do: wed. Shes leaving the third-rate country of Bandrika (fictional, though somewhere in Central Europe) for her homeland of England.

Alfred Hitchcocks The Lady Vanishes (1938) starts off lighthearted enough. After an avalanche delays their train, a band of travelers huddle in a hillside inn, where nobody seems to be speaking the same language. Iris (Margaret Lockwood) and her girlfriends partake in champagne, while handsome musicologist Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) makes himself welcome in her room and two British cricket fans (Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, who would play these characters--or variations--multiple times thereafter) fuss over the next big match.

Cut to a hotel room where a professional singer practices a tune unfamiliar to the audience, but one that catches the ear of the governess Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), who hums along with such focus. In a perfectly Hitchcockian shot, a pair of shadowy hands creep behind the singer and silence the voice.

The next day, the travelers wait at the platform for the scheduled train. Distractions and sheer chance find a potted plant falling on Iris head. Miss Froy ushers her onto the train and looks after her, almost as an obligation. They chat over tea. After, they rest in a small section of seats, where an Italian magician performs an illusion for a young boy. Miss Froy takes to a magazine while Iris dozes off, awaking to the great disappearing act that churns the final hour of the film: the lady, Miss Froy, has vanished.

No one on the train acknowledges ever seeing Miss Froy, even when Iris describes her entire attire down to the stitching. The cafs manager produces a receipt that suggests Iris only had tea for one. An onboard psychologist (of course!) pins it all as a hallucination brought on from Iris minor concussion.

The cards are rigged, shuffled by the Italian magician and, apparently, everyone else with a ticket. Even Miss Froys simple introduction is muted by the train, which, as if cued by conspirators, starts to whistle and howl at a deafening level the moment she tries to share her name with Iris.

Like any great Hitchcock picture, The Lady Vanishes is propelled by murder, paranoia and mistaken/lost identity. Though the first 20 or so minutes seem slow in the buildup, Hitchcock makes sure the next two acts are crammed with clever twists and rousing thrills. Every bit of dialogue serves the mystery and every action pushes viewers to the edge. The best example is the scene where Gilbert attempts to enter a neighboring compartment without stepping in the hall. In a magnificent matte shot, Gilbert exits a window and clutches the outside of the train, just as another roars by, missing killing him by mere centimeters. (It recalls the finale of Shadow of a Doubt, where the villain wasnt as lucky.)

Shot in 1938, The Lady Vanishes helped Hitchcock make that big move to the States, where hed introduce himself with Rebecca, his only Best Picture winner. And The Lady Vanishes, for all of its wit, suspense and romance, is his best British film, and sits with more well-known classics like North by Northwest, Notorious, Rear Window, Rope, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, and Vertigo as one of his finest overall.
THE EXTRAS
Audio commentary featuring film historian Bruce Eder: Eder delivers a fascinating and detailed commentary, focusing on the photography, the films origins, the cast/characters, the subversive tones, the many twists, and so much more.

Crooks Tour (1:20:59): John Baxters 1941 film, based on a radio serial from the same year, features the characters Charters and Caldecott (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne), the British cricket fans in The Lady Vanishes.

Hitchcock/Truffaut (10:06): In this 1962 audio interview, the directors discuss The Lady Vanishes and British cinema as a whole. This excerpt was part of the series of interviews that led to Truffauts book, Hitchcock.

Mystery Train (33:32): In this video essay, film scholar and author Leonard Leff (Hitchcock and Selznick: The Rich and Strange Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick) discusses the contexts and style of The Lady Vanishes.

Stills Gallery

Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 20-page booklet featuring two essays: All Aboard! by critic Geoffrey OBrien and Tea & Treachery by Hitchcock scholar Charles Barr.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
One of Hitchcocks finest, The Lady Vanishes is a witty, playful mystery boasts a level of suspense that few directors could/can manage. This Blu-ray of The Lady Vanishes is the third release of the film from The Criterion Collection and, until a new format is introduced, is the definitive release. Aside from stellar video and audio presentations, viewers are also treated to a bonus feature film (Crooks Tour), an interview with Hitchcock and more.
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