Monday, August 13, 2007

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Delightful bit of entertainment that also serves these days as a useful primer on how differences of tone and thought can change similar narratives into completely different animals. I now realize that Flightplan was a half-step away from being a full remake of this, but where that Jodie Foster-starring clunker was heavy-handed and smug, this takes its cues from Michael Redgrave's marvelously dry turn -- it's light and fizzy yet with enough suspense to give it heft. The suspense, true to its status as a first-rate Hitchcock film, is classically structured (i.e. the name on the window coming into camera view long before it's noticed by Margaret Lockwood) and terrifically effective. The plot structure, too, is pretty dynamic -- this is one of the great plant-and-payoff films, with small details revealed in passing becoming significant much later along in the narrative. Clever in both its construction and its sly playing-off the traditional British gentility (self-interest and the distaste for interference, for "making a scene," play a big part in the title occurance); also, there's a fantastic, physical fight scene that's all the more impressive for its gracelessness. It's kind of embarassing how easy Hitchcock makes all this look.

Grade: A-


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