Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Running Time: 92 mins
The Lady Vanishes is a British film about a young woman who, while travelling on a train in Europe, meets a woman who mysteriously disappears, but might still be onboard.
From the Master of Suspense himself, The Lady Vanishes is an undeniably captivating watch, with all the hallmarks of Hitchcock’s fervour for mystery and intrigue. Its simple setting and engaging premise make it an enjoyable watch, although it lacks a powerful sense of suspense.
As a result, The Lady Vanishes isn’t an intense, dizzying thriller like many of Hitchock’s later, all-time classics. A lower intensity is something that was present many of his films before moving to Hollywood, and is arguably a major reason why those film aren’t as acclaimed nowadays.
However, that doesn’t mean the film isn’t an entertaining watch. While it isn’t a spectacular, nail-biting thriller, The Lady Vanishes does provide some enjoyable intrigue with a mysterious plot, cleverly sowing seeds of confusion and conspiracy right from the start.
Following a seemingly inexplicable series of events, the film is actually a very simple tale, and it’s that simplicity which makes it such a magnetic and enjoyably bewildering watch in the early stages.
Although things take a little while to really start in earnest after a slow-moving opening act, the beginnings of the film’s real excitement is a lot of fun, as Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave desperately try to find answers to a mysterious disappearance.
As they question fellow passengers up and down the train to no avail, that sense of conspiracy grows, as if there really is something else going on beneath the surface. In that, the film has a little bit of a Murder On The Orient Express air about it, albeit not quite to the same theatrical extent.
Because, although the mystery is captivating, The Lady Vanishes is a little too slow and a little too small-scale to really bring any immediate suspense to the table. Of course, Hitchcock doesn’t intend it to be a breathless watch like some of his later films, but it’s certainly not as exciting as it aims to be either way.
Where the film does reap a bit of tension is from its pre-war setting, playing out in the middle of the European continent against the backdrop of growing regional uncertainty and tension between nations. That adds a little bit of depth to proceedings, and brings an interesting extra layer of conflict to the interactions between the passengers of many different nationalities.
Saying all that, though, The Lady Vanishes still isn’t quite the riveting thriller it really wants to be. It’s a captivating watch with a nicely-plotted story, a clever setting and good performances, but it’s hardly the most atmospheric or intense film. And that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3 overall.