13 October 2012 | secondtake
Delightful, funny, mysterious, meticulously crafter Hitchcock!
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
A Hitchcock movie filled with mystery but lacking suspense. Which is quite fine, turning "The Lady Vanishes" into a fun movie with lots of wry jokes and clever twists. You can't take it any more seriously than Hitchcock did, and he famously had fun with his ideas. That's one reason why they are recognizably Hitch.
This is a transitional movie for the director in many ways. For one thing it was hugely successful in Britain, and then later in the U.S., and Hitchcock soon moved to Hollywood where his stellar string of successes for over 20 years began. But that said, this is a film filled with provincial humor (that was a joke, in case you are British)--that is, you need to have a feel for British humor, and for the style of joking and making witty remarks (constantly) of the time. It's a hilarious movie. When you aren't laughing you're still tickled.
Which is what disappoints some viewers expecting "Psycho" or something. Nope. But you'll recognize the director's hand here, mixing regular people who are misunderstood (if not quite accused of something they didn't do) and who end up having to solve the problem themselves. And so it goes, and they do rather well for a couple of ordinary folk.
When I say there is no suspense I mean it, even when there is uncertainty. The biggest twist of the whole plot (not to be mentioned here!) is only kept from the viewer for a short while. Then the actors tell you! Yes, you are let in on the secret, and yet the movie goes on from there. That is--it's not about worrying and trying to figure it out. It's about watching the main characters work together and piece together their way out of a sticky situation. And of course eventually fall in love.
You forget sometimes that the key element in nearly every Hitchcock movie is a love story. After all, that's what matters to most of us (or all of us?) day after day, so he zeroes in on that even as the world is threatened by uranium 235 ("Notorious"), a murderer in the apartment complex ("Rear Window"), the ghost of a previous wife ("Rebecca") and so on. (Of these, "Psycho" is an interesting exception.) So watch what is actually a romantic comedy with a dash of international intrigue in the ominous year leading up to WWII, which hasn't happened at the time of filming. Great stuff.