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Lady Vanishes, The (1938)


Stars: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Googie Withers, Cecil Parker, Linden Travers, Mary Clare

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

A welcome reissue on the big screen for the Hitchcock suspense thriller which has become one of the few timeless classics from the British cinema of the 1930s.

With its famous plotline of the little old lady (Whitty), who vanishes aboard the spy-ridden, pre-war Transcontinental Express, the film is full of distinctive touches - one remembers especially icy-lipped Catherine Lacey as the 'nun' who proves to be wearing high heels - that became a trademark of The Master's work once he moved to Hollywood. It also had his favourite claustrophobic setting - a train.

Made during what Hitchcock later called his 'adventurous period', it features, besides unlimited tension and excitement, rising star Margaret Lockwood ('delightful, uninhibited girl' recalled Hitch later) as the heroine who almost comes to believe she didn't meet the elderly Miss Froy, who has now disappeared.

Waspishly well written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, the story also introduces their famous characters Charters and Caldicott (Radford and Wayne), archetypal bumbling Englishmen more interested in the Test score than a body in the corridor, who, sometimes under other names, would reappear in several more comedies and thrillers through the 1940s, as well as a long-running radio series.

David Quinlan

UK 1938. UK Distributor: Park Circus. Black and white.
97 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 04 Jan 2008