Thursday 9 August 2018: Vanishing Lady

Thursday 9 August 2018: ‘Vanishing Lady’ 2018
The Lady Vanishes (1938)

An Alfred Hitchcock Film

For many Thursdays in a row, my father, my wife and I, have watched The Birds, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. Tonight was the time for the other British masterpiece. Last week we watched The 39 Steps with Robert Donat so it was appropriate that this week we watch The Lady Vanishes. Together they are the two most popular Hitchcock films of his British-period.

What surprised me was that I didn’t have an experience which made me feel like this was one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. It’s hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-its-teeth filmmaking which is not as assured as The 39 Steps. The lack of budget really shows up in the early sequences, plus the comedy scenes are rather trivial and overplayed by everyone involved, and there’s nothing developing plot-wise in terms of suspense or thrills. Until everyone boards the train it’s quite slipshod and either overdone or underdone.

From the point where Miss Froy loses who bags and Iris is hit on the head by a pot-plant the film, only then, starts to build some momentum. The fact that the ‘lady’ is so absent – deliberately of course – from the scenes in the hotel, stretches the time that needs to be filled before the Second Act can begin.

Thereafter it is a real joy. It’s like a film which had a hit on the head at the start, was very confused, and suddenly everything becomes clear after the effects of the concussion have worn off.