In Alfred Hitchcock s most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe by train, meets Dame May Whitty s charming old spinster, who seemingly disappears into thin air. Soon enough, the young woman turns investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure. The Lady Vanishes, now in an all-new digital transfer, remains one of the master filmmaker s purest delights.
Alfred Hitchcock had hit his early, near-flawless stride by the time of The Lady Vanishes
, the 1938 classic that seems as bright and funny now as the day it was released. After the deliciously comic opening reels at a mittel-European hotel where a train has been snowed in, the plot kicks into gear: a very nice old lady (Dame May Whitty) suddenly disappears in mid-train ride. Worse, the young woman (Margaret Lockwood) who'd befriended her can't find anybody to confirm that the lady ever actually existed. Luckily, suave gadabout Michael Redgrave is at the ready--to say nothing of two English cricket fans, brought to memorable life by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne. The film bops along briskly, borne along on the charm of the players and the witty script by expert craftsman Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (who also did the delightful Green for Danger
and the St. Trinian's
films), to say nothing of Hitchcock's healthy sense of humor about the whole thing--indeed, it may be the most "British" of his films. --Robert Horton
On the DVD
This two-disc package is the second time Lady has been issued by Criterion, and features a (visually and aurally) improved transfer of the film. It retains a commentary from the earlier release, but adds tasty extras: a half-hour documentary from Leonard Leff (standard stuff, but a nice intro to Hitchcockian ideas), plus a 10-minute audio excerpt from Francois Truffaut's legendary book-length interview with Hitch. This is not only a good way to hear Hitchcock on The Lady Vanishes, it's a fascinating ringside seat at an important moment in film history. And then there's Crook's Tour, a fun 1941 feature comedy vehicle for Charters and Caldicott, the two characters played by Radford and Wayne (they'd been such a hit in The Lady Vanishes that audiences demanded more of them, leading to a long-term teaming in film and radio). All good--but Lady itself is the ride you'll be returning to again and again. --Robert Horton