Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

There’s a saying:  You’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you.  It’s easy for someone to dismiss someone else’s paranoia, but imagine thinking you’re caught up in a conspiracy.  Every turn of events reaffirms your suspicions and any evidence to the contrary is part of the cover up.

Iris Henderson is on her way home to get married.  She’s stranded at an inn for the night due to an avalanche along with an interesting cast of characters.  Charters and Caldicott are going to England to see a cricket match.   Gilbert Redman is a musician staying above Iris who plays his music way too loudly.  Miss Froy is a governess traveling home.

Miss Froy and Iris become fast friends, sitting across from each other on the train the next morning.  They even have tea together.  Iris falls asleep only to find Miss Froy gone.  All of the people that saw them together claim that Iris was alone.  Each interacted with Miss Froy to varying degrees.  Even the other people in their compartment have no recollection of anyone fitting Miss Froy’s description.

Gilbert agrees to help her.  They meet a brain surgeon, Dr. Hartz, who says that Iris may have suffered a concussion.  Miss Froy may be nothing more than a hallucination.  Shortly after the doctor’s patient arrives on the train, a new woman appears wearing Miss Froy’s clothing.  Oh, and they’re attacked by a magician, Singor Doppo.  Is Iris really paranoid?  Gilbert starts to realize that this mysterious Miss Froy may really exist.

I sometimes wonder why a particular cliché is used.  Here, we have one person who insists that someone else was onboard.  Others know it, although refuse to admit it for varying reasons.  (A couple on the train is married, just not to each other; they don’t want their names in a police report.)  If I had met someone on a train only to have them disappear, I might have just assumed that they had found another compartment to sit in.  Here, at least, it makes some sense.  There aren’t that many people that have seen her that it becomes implausible that they’d all deny seeing her.  The question isn’t so much if Miss Froy existed but how and why she disappeared.

It’s strange that Iris is the only one that is looking for Miss Froy.  Had the two not met at the inn, Miss Froy would have been in trouble.   Given the number of people staying at the inn that ended up on the train, I’d think someone else would have admitted to having seen her.  In fact, Iris leaves two friends at the Inn.  Had one of them gone with her, things might have happened differently.

I found that the movie took a while to get to Miss Froy‘s disappearance.  A good deal of time is spent at the inn establishing the characters.  Part of this may have had to do with the description on the back of the box, which only mentions the train.  When I first started watching the movie, I was wondering if I had selected the correct one from the menu.  (I got this as part of a 9-movie set of Hitchcock movies.)

It wasn’t that bad and was evenly paced.  There weren’t any parts of the movie that dragged at all.  Some of it seemed strange to me, which is due mostly to the age of the film.  The movie was released in 1938 in Great Britain.  Traveling across a country by train is a strange concept to most people today who usually fly, especially considering that several of the main characters are going to London from continental Europe.  Then, there’s the music, which seemed kind of simple to me.

I read that the movie was remade in 1979 and 2013.  It would be interesting to watch either one just to see how the story was handled in a more modern context.  I’m sure that there are aspects of the plot lost on me.  If you’re looking for a Hitchcock movie to watch, this would be a good one to try.

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