Monday, November 19, 2007
Criterion Re-Releases "The Lady Vanishes" in a Souped-Up DVD, Out Tomorrow
Alfred Hitchcock nabbed the New York Film Critics Award for Best Director for The Lady Vanishes; the New York Times said "if it were not so brilliant a melodrama, we should class it as a brilliant comedy."
The Lady Vanishes vies with The 39 Steps for Hitch's best 30s film, and I'd give the edge to The 39 Steps on the whole, but The Lady Vanishes has that flawless combination of comedy and suspense that the Times reported, that its an irresistable gem. A perfect example of this delicate balance occurs when Margaret Lockwood convinces Michael Redgrave of the old woman’s disappearance and the two go to look for her in the baggage car— the film takes time out for some fun banter between the two and then switches to a hand-to-hand battle with a villain which is at turns dangerous and comical.
There doesn't seen to be as much written about The Lady Vanishes as the other Hitchcock classics; even Hitchcock doesn't say much in his interviews (perhaps because he had so little to do with the film's preproduction: the area he most liked to shine during). Rohmer & Chabrol perhaps said it best: The Lady Vanishes is almost an encyclopedia. It is the exact summing up of [Hitchcock's] Gaumont-British series [of films], and therefore requires little commentary.... It's an excellent English film, an excellent Hitchcock film."
The Lady Vanishes (1938): A great Saturday matinee style yarn with the perfect hook and a delightful, understated performance by Dame May Whitty in the title role, that, despite a slow start, and the use of some astonishingly obvious models for effects shots, comes out a winner due to its subtle and interesting characterizations and richly blended comedy-mystery tone.