Monday, January 18, 2010

#26 The Lady Vanishes: People just don't vanish and so forth.

1938. dir. Alfred Hitchcock, starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty.

Seen it before? No.

I counted the other day, and the director with the most movies on the list is the great Alfred Hitchcock, with eleven. Second most is Stanley Kubrick with nine, then Martin Scorsese with six. I don't think anybody else has more than four or five. It occurred to me that we were 25 movies in without having made a dent in the Hitchcock pile, so we decided to start at the beginning. (well, the beginning for the ones on the list; he had a few older ones like The Thirty-Nine Steps.)

This one is like a play in three acts. Act One is a farcical comedy at a hotel that has become overcrowded due to an avalanche. We meet the main characters: a young American woman on vacation (Margaret Lockwood), this smarmy annoying guy who plays the clarinet (Michael Redgrave), two British guys who are WAY too into cricket (Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford), a couple cheating on their respective spouses (Cecil Parker and Linden Travers), and a slightly senile-acting governess (Dame May Whitty). A few key plot points are dropped here, and a musician gets strangled - we don't find out why until much later.

Act Two: The movie becomes a psychological mystery story. The avalanche is cleared and everybody gets on the train. The heiress is sharing a compartment with the governess, and they become friendly. She takes a nap and when she wakes up, the governess has disappeared. Everybody says she was by herself the whole time. She suspects something is up - spoiler: she's right - and clarinet guy is the only one who believes her story.

Act Three: well, I won't ruin it.

This is really an excellent movie, and very innovative for the time it was made. Alfred Hitchcock delivers his usual blend of suspense, intelligent plotting, and dry British humor. Highly recommended.

Position on the list: 235
Hitchcock's cameo: In the train station at the end

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