The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Once again, a generally acknowledged classic I’ve never seen until now, and to be honest I’m slightly puzzled as to why; as a general rule I like Hitchcock and have seen most of his other 1930s films, even the lesser-known ones, so I’m damned if I can understand why it’s taken me until now to see this one, I mean, it’s only one of his best-known and regarded films… and, really, it’s been my loss not having seen it before. What an interesting question it asks, too, about Hitchcock’s vaunted auteur status, cos the script was actually written for Roy William Neill; Hitchcock only got it after Neill was unable to do it and he didn’t order too many changes to it. Still, a script isn’t a film, and Hitchcock did make the casting choices which, I think, are a large part of what makes the film what it is (particularly Redgrave & Lockwood as the two leads and the lads playing Caldicott & Charters); indeed there’s not much he did in this film that I’d seriously argue with. The looming spectre of the strife that would erupt in Europe just a year later hangs over the film in a manner that is hard to escape, and yet at the same time for the most part it’s also kind of subsumed by the film’s relative lightness (cf. the splendid remark during the climactic shootout about there possibly being a rational explanation for everything that’s gone on until that point); it works as a comedy just as well as it does a thriller, maybe better as a comedy in fact. Just look at the amount of time it takes to set up its characters before the story even gets onto the train; it really is about the romantic elements as much as the suspense if not more so at times. Enjoyed this a lot, should’ve seen it years ago.

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