The Lady Vanishes - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Lady Vanishes Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 26, 2016
An enjoyable but overrated film that wants so much to be funny (and make fun of British people who think only about their own problems) that it doesn't have any tension, with a plot that, even with a curious premise, is just too contrived and full of conveniences to be taken seriously.
Super Reviewer
August 14, 2010
This film is one of Hitchcock's most famous, and earliest triumphs in London, gliding him into box office fame, and inspiring an entire new generation of filmmakers. With this, his most complex and inciting work to date, the master of suspense really drags out the plot until it finally unravels in a most thrilling fashion. Hitchcock took a tale from 1880's London and transposed it for modern audiences, set it in a fictional European country, and included spies, gunfights, and an array of violence. The film is set on a train, uses very little setting, and concerns only a handful of people. Iris (Lockwood) is riding the train with an older woman she met at a hotel in the foreign country of Baldrika. Now, the fictitious country really could be anywhere in Eastern Europe, but I got the sense that it was trying to convey somewhere in Western Russia, because between the accents and the uniformity of the officers depicted, that's what I thought of. Iris and Miss. Froy (Whitty) board the train after Iris suffers an accident, and probably gets a concussion. She passes out, and when she awakes everyone on the train says that she must have imagined her. The rest of the film Iris and Gilbert (Redgrave) try to find her amongst the luggage, lying train staff, and comedic foils (Wayne and Radford). This remains one of Hitchcock's better remembered films because the premise is so strange. Someone disappearing happens quite a bit, but for that person to be regarded as imaginary, really makes it a psychological rollercoaster. In the last twenty minutes it shifts radically from a suspenseful thriller to action thriller. After the plot is unraveled for the audience and the villain has given exposition on their plan, there's a gunfight aboard the train, and the tone shifts radically. That was very surprising, especially since it made the film even more suspenseful. This may be the first action film of its kind, pairing wit and humor with unapologetic violence. Hitchcock melds genres for the first time, and it's as seamless as expected.
Super Reviewer
½ August 17, 2013
Almost everything would have fallen apart had this comic thriller being executed by anyone else than our very genius Alfred Hitchcock. There are quite a lot of characters, but as is often the case, instead of distracting, it only adds to the entertainment. Fared well for me, though a bit less than most of other Hitchcock films I've enjoyed.
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2013
The Lady Vanishes remains arguably one of Alfred Hitchcock's best film. With an incredibly talented cast, a pleasant mix of humour and suspense, as well as a very satisfying ending, this film shows the director at his absolute best (before coming to America and making his more popular films). Some critics and audiences have claimed the first act is too long, but there's a certain charm to the way the story takes its time setting up the characters, particularly the relationship between Iris and Gilbert.
Hitchcock's brilliance is best displayed in movies with few locations - Psycho, Rear Window, Rope. The train setting in The Lady Vanishes ensures that the characters are limited and that any one of them could be the culprit behind the kidnapping of Miss Froy. There are incredibly well executed scenes of suspense, such as the multiple shots of Miss Froy's name written on the window sill. And it is all presented with a light-hearted touch that never forgets to keep the audience laughing as much as gripping the edge of their seats. This is a must-see for Hitchcock fans!
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2012
International intrigue blends with romance as two European railway travellers go missing one friend, and everyone who ever saw the lady denies it. Things are kept light and airy, breezy, despite conspiracy theories and knife fights afoot with plenty of comic shots at the expense of stiff upper lip English abroad perception. Was this really made in 1938?!?
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2012
I really adore Alfred Hitchcock's drama comedies. They're very entertaining and tend to keep you glued to your seat until you find out what's going on. In this conspiracy theory comedy extravaganza, The Lady Vanishes is Hitchcock at his early best. Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave are dazzling as a screen duo, and their performances are what gives the film a lot of its value. They're not standout performances or anything, but they keep you locked in. Much of that has to do with the direction, I'm sure. At times the film is laugh out loud funny and at other times a little creepy, which is a perfect combination. My only problem with the film is that once the main narrative thread is resolved, there's still another thirty minutes devoted to the film's subplot. In other words, the film like it ended much earlier than it actually did. Not that it devalues the story; it just goes on a bit more than it needed to. Otherwise, the film is very slick and should delight anyone who's looking to see other Hitchcock films besides his big name ones.
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2007
This is Hitch in pretty close to top form. The story is a fun and exciting thriller about a young woman traveling across pre-WWII Europe by train who believes that an older woman she had become acquainted with has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. To make thigns more frustrating, everyone on the train claims the older woman neverexisted and that it's all in the young woman's head. To be fair, the young woman was hit in the head with a flower pot, but still, that doesn't stop her from trying to prove that she's right and everyone else is (for whatever reasons) trying to hide something.

Nowadays this plot seems very quaint, familiar, and nothing special, especially since Flightplan borrows so heavily from it. However, I think it's held up quite well over the years, and is definitely somewhere on the high end of the scale for Hitch (either for his 30s period, his British era, or maybe just overall period).

The film does start off a little slow and take some time to get going, but once it does, it's just sails right along. There's a good mystery thriller here, some good twists, great atmosphere, and some decent acting. Essentially, this gives you all that you'd expect from a suspenseful mystery thriller, especially one made by the Master of Suspense. All in al, I give it an extremely high B+
Super Reviewer
November 13, 2011
Hitchcock directs a great ensemble cast in this hilarious (and ofcourse, suspenseful) 30's classic.
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2007
Amazing early classic from Hitchcock that's as charming as it is British (and it is very British).
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ February 8, 2011
By the time he made The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock had been directing for seventeen years. He had built himself a reputation as a consummate craftsman and made his fair share of mistakes along the way (the bomb scene in Sabotage being one of his biggest regrets). Coming just before his move to Hollywood and the Oscar success with Rebecca, The Lady Vanishes is a taut, streamlined and emotional thriller with all the classic ingredients out in full force.

The Lady Vanishes is a very loose adaptation of The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White - so loose, in fact, that almost everything in the film is different. The setting and some of the character names are unchanged, but the rest has been markedly altered - judging by this, for the better. Such decisions tie in with Hitchcock's underlying interest in technique over content: his concern was never with what the story is about, as with how was the best way to tell it.

The first plus point of the film is that it takes a relatively simple premise and not only runs with it, but explores it from every conceivable angle in the space of 90 minutes. Even when there's a big shoot-out in the last ten minutes, the film has the strength of its convictions and never feels like the director is giving up on the material. Whereas Flightplan wanted to be taken seriously and ended up hoisted by its own petard, The Lady Vanishes follows through with its premise until Hitchcock is satisfied that the audience's needs have been met.

The film contains a number of aspects which foreshadow Hitchcock's better-known work. He would return to dreams and hallucinations a few years later in Spellbound, and both films are rooted in unreliable narrators searching for an identity which may or may not be their own. When Miss Froy is first introduced to Iris, the latter mishears it as Freud, further confirmation of Hitchcock's continued interest in sex, dreams and psychology.

Like The 39 Steps before it and Notorious after it, The Lady Vanishes is a classic story of ordinary people caught up in the world of spying by a single chance encounter. And there is a tenuous link with The Birds in a scene halfway through, where Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave are beset upon by pigeons. But the film is also a refinement of existing techniques. The use of shadows in the strangling scene is a development of the gallows sequence in Murder!, while the use of kaleidoscopic vision to depict hallucinations is taken from Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

The claustrophobic setting of The Lady Vanishes means that there is much less opportunity for the performers to descend into melodrama. While there is no doubt that their characters are whimsical, they feel genuine and understated, and there are only occasional moments in which our heroine has to be hysterical on cue.

At the beginning of the film we are introduced to a host of characters staying in an overcrowded hotel after their train is delayed by an avalanche. We focus on two irascible Englishmen who are frustrated by their failure to be understood and by the lack of appreciation for cricket (they are trying to get home to watch a test match). In one scene the older gentleman hangs up on someone else's phone call because the other party didn't know the score; in another, he makes jibes about Americans having no sense of perspective because the New York Times covers baseball but not cricket.

This sense of whimsy is complimented by Hitchcock's use of language as a means of alienation. Many different languages are spoken on screen as a means of making our heroine more isolated. There are no subtitles, and only so many characters can interpret, which is one of the reasons why Iris and Gilbert become friends. This device is a huge influence on the level of trust we have for both our heroine and the other passengers: are people simply misunderstanding her, or do they have something to hide and are using language as a protective barrier?

Hitchcock always made a clear distinction between mystery and suspense, with the former being wholly intellectual and the latter emotional. Superficially, The Lady Vanishes could be classed as a mystery, since its plot is based around a search for a missing person, just like a detective searching for the murderer. The story has vague similarities with Murder on the Orient Express: the action takes places on a train with many strangers from different countries, their various stories do not corroborate and in one solution everyone is in on it. But Hitchcock doesn't just settle for a sense of mystery, and as things move forward it is our emotional response which becomes key.

The suspense he generates comes from a number of sources. Some of it is down to set-pieces, the most dramatic being Michael Redgrave having out of the train window in the manner of The 39 Steps. Some of it comes from the time restrictions involved - the train moves to various stations, and characters constantly mutter about crossing the border and needing to make connections. And some of it comes from physical constraints - short of jumping out the window, there's no way off a speeding train. But all of these examples work because of the emotional attachment we have to the characters, both in the reluctant romance and the development of Iris' character as she moves from pity and despair to being more determined and resourceful.

Like so many of Hitchcock's thrillers, The Lady Vanishes is brilliant at throwing us off the scent, with little touches here and there which appear more significant than eventually transpires. Through a series of cleverly timed edits, we come to believe that the two Englishmen we meet at the start are the ones we should be watching. After Iris and Gilbert pass along a corridor, we see them coming out of a hidden cubicle, as if they were trying to avoid her. Later we see them talking about the pressing need to get back home: these scenes are shot from a more intrusive angle, so that all their talk of 'cricket' could easily be nothing of the sort.

Then we come to the twist. It's hardly the most impressive or shocking in cinema, but for a film anchored by an unreliable narrator it handles it very assuredly. Some thrillers, like Shutter Island or Heartless, eventually have to come down on one side or the other and say what was real or true in a often disappointing manner. With The Lady Vanishes, no such moment is necessary because only one version of events can be true. Because we see Miss Froy around other characters before she boards the train, she has to have genuinely disappeared. Had the entire film been set on the train, with no preamble, only then would the other option been remotely viable.

On top of all that, The Lady Vanishes is surprisingly funny. Although certain elements have dated, it takes a playful look at national stereotypes, saluting English resolve while sending up the stiff-upper-lip. Michael Redgrave gets all the juiciest lines in a caddish performance which serves as an interesting contrast to his work in The Browning Version or The Dambusters. And then there are the two Englishmen, whom after talking about cricket forever and explaining wickets with sugar cubes, finally get back to London to discover the match was rained off.

The Lady Vanishes is a great thriller from a director on the cusp of greatness. It takes a simple, modest premise and rings out the maximum amount of both thrills and tension. The performances are believable, the plot is twisty and compelling, and Hitchcock's direction is assured and professional. Later works would be more experimental, but this remains a highlight of his pre-Hollywood career.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
This movie was confusing to me, it has some boring scenes and some exciting scenes, but the ending was strange. Not Hitchcock's best.
Super Reviewer
July 17, 2010
"Well, anyway, I refuse to be discouraged. Faint heart never found old lady."

Ah, this was a great movie! One of Hitch's best, and certainly one of his most entertaining. It was funny, thrilling, and just plain old fun to watch.

The story is quite simple. A sweet old lady disappears on a train, and the only person who admits ever seeing her, is a young woman who met her the night before. As she searches for the old lady, she's helped by a roguish young man, and they soon begin to wonder just who this lady is, where she went, and why on earth would so many people go through so much trouble to make it seem like she never existed. It all makes for a very compelling mystery.

The Lady Vanishes features some of the best characters I've ever seen in a Hitchcock film. Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave were great as the two main protagonists, and the witty banter between the two was equaled only by the two dry, cricket-obsessed Englishmen who provided so much of the humor of the film. I found this movie to be similar to Rear Window (no wonder I enjoyed it so much), as there are many subplots among the minor characters that are almost as interesting as the main story.

I firmly believe that this is the best I've seen of Hitchcock's early movies. It has everything from shootouts to nuns in high heels. The Lady Vanishes will convert you to being a fan of Alfred, if you're somehow (drugs?) not already.
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2010
A very interesting story and probably the third best film Hitchcock made before going to Hollywood. While it has nothing on some of his later work, this takes a relatively simple premise and creates an interesting thriller.
Super Reviewer
May 20, 2009
This is a very early Hitchcock movie (1938). And it surprised me that this is in the Criterion Collection. The movie intertwines every aspect of the movie genre, ie, mystery, drama, comedy, suspense. The added slap stick surprised me coming from Alfred Hitchcock. Also Hitchcock makes his brief appearance in this movie, which I will not give away. Don't let the year of this film scare you. The first 10-15 minutes gives you time to relax and adjust to the story and then from there on out, you better not get up for popcorn because the movie takes off. You have a group of people who are trying to board a train, but are held up over night because they are snow bound in the mountains of Europe. Now we set up for a meeting with all those who will later play a part in this film. The next day before boarding the train Iris gets hit on the head from a falling brick meant for Miss Froy, she makes friends with Miss Froy before passing out, after tea and coming to, Miss Froy has disappeared and no one knows here or says they never seen her. So begins the great mystery. Later we find out that Mrs. Froy is a spy and the Germans of course are involve and the bad guys. So you see Hitchcock has woven everything into this movie. 4 stars only because of its age and film quality. My Copy came from the BCI Alfred Hitchcock Legends of Hollywood Collection 12 Movies for $9.95 on Amazon
Super Reviewer
½ January 15, 2009
This reminded me of The 39 Steps in the sense that it's another example of Hitchcock perfecting his technique as a director. In hindsight, one can see flashes of Hitch's signature style that would later shape his more popular classics (i.e. Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho, etc.). That being said, even as a young, inexperienced, fledgling director, his brilliance shines through.
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2007
easily one of hitchcocks best films, this is also one of the greatest films ever made. incredible photography, a perfectly crafted and haunting script, a brilliantly chosen cast, and a well thought out plot. there were no holes and the entire film was perfectly executed. to be honest, i was nervous the first 30 minutes, and then the last hour was one of the most mind blowing and engaging hours of film that i have ever seen. a perfect masterpiece.
Super Reviewer
½ December 12, 2007
perfectly charming and really funny
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2007
Slow starting, but in typical Hitchcock fashion, a great original conspiracy story. Hitchcock certainly loved his trains.

An enjoyable film and a rating to reflect the quality for it?s time
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2008
Early Hitchcock that has some really cool moving shots that give you a little taste of what is to come later in his career. I like the way he used models in the opening. It's also surprising how funny this movie is, but at the same time I think the plot was a little much at the end. Redgrave is great.
Super Reviewer
December 16, 2007
Clever, a lot of fun, but a little thin. Still it stretches what it has well. Hitchcock's last film before going to Hollywood, the last time he'd work with such a limited budget.
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