Marking the peak of Hitchcock’s British period –
It is an exquisitely crafted cinematic treasure, played by the equaly brilliant casts. And for obvious reason you’ll see how Hitchcock set his point of view for a film.
Set in pre-WWII somewhere in Europe, A group of people board a train bound for England after having spent the previous night in an overcrowded hotel. Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) befriends a kindly old governess, Miss Froy (Dame May Witty). When Iris is struck by a falling flowerpot, Miss Froy promises to take care of her as they board to the train.
The film spends 20 minutes or so just introducing it’s characters, but they are all so great, especially the two men so obsessed with returning to a cricket match that a case of disappearance and possibly murder is relatively unimportant, that it hardly matters. Once on the train, the ensuring mystery and sleuthing are riveting, and full of fantastic little details, the name on the window, the nun with high heeled shoes, the fight in the magician’s stuff. The final shootout is excellently staged and still quite exciting. The laughs are constant, with some hilarious lines, but they never detract from the suspense.
The Lady Vanishes is a wonderful piece of fluff, the culmination of Hitchcock’s British period, after which he started to explore more serious themes in his American films. Of course the basic plot is absurd, centering around the most ridiculous way to get a secret message through one can think of, it’s the handling that matters, and Hitchcock achieves a near perfect balance here of humor and suspense that he only really matched on one other film.
Hitchcock had countless classics to come, including such complex masterpieces as Vertigo and Rear Window, but the delightful, hugely enjoyable The Lady Vanishes is a little masterpiece of it’s own.