Sep 15, 2014

Review: The Lady Vanishes (2013)

Here we are are with another take on Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1938 film, The Lady Vanishes. The Anthony Page directed The Lady Vanishes from 1979 was pretty much a failure in every regard compared to the original. Although it's still sort of watchable, the humour and the suspense fall decisively flat. Is this BBC co-produced TV movie doomed to the same fate?

This version of The Lady Vanishes is more focused on closely adapting the novel that the story is based on by Ethel Lina White called The Wheel Spins. That's probably the best direction to go in for sure. There's no point in trying to match Hitchcock's production punch for punch. Although I can't verify if the movie follows the book closely, humour as been stripped away and the overall atmosphere of the movie is forbiddingly murky.


Genre: drama
Directed by: Diarmuid Lawrence
Produced by: Ann Tricklebank, Rebecca Eaton, Anne Pivcevic, etc.
Written by: Fiona Seres
Music by: John Lunn
Running time: 87 minutes
Production company: British Broadcasting Corporation, Masterpiece, Pioneer Pictures
Distributed by: British Broadcasting Corporation, Masterpiece Theatre, Public Broadcasting Service, etc.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: £1,870,000
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Tuppence Middleton, Selina Cadell, Tom Hughes, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Keeley Hawes, Jesper Christensen, Stephanie Cole, Zsuzsa David, Emerald Fennell, Daniel Gosling, Benedikte Hansen, Gemma Jones, Daisy Lewis, Tamás Lengyel, Pip Torrens



Iris Carr (Tuppence Middleton) is traveling with a group of friends and staying at a hotel in Croatia. There's a bit of a fight regarding some gentleman in their company involving Iris and ends with her friends leaving the hotel and her staying behind. She decides to leave the next day alone that afternoon but has a bit of a mishap at the station, losing consciousness. Apparently she's suffering from a serious case of sunstroke and barely makes the train on time. Luckily, a kindly old woman by the name of Miss Froy (Selina Cadell) takes care of her. When Iris wakes up from her nap, Miss Froy has mysteriously disappeared and no one in her compartment remembers having seen her.


I'm OK with the disappearance of humour in this version of The Lady Vanishes. The complete flop of the 1979 edition was enough to convince me that I didn't want to see anyone try and replicate what Hitchcock did for his version. So no there is no Charters and Caldicott this time around but that suits me just fine. What's replaced the humour as I said is this very forbidding kind of constant threat. The nice sunlit hotel in Croatia gives way to a dark and kind of unwelcoming train. It's a pretty nice set overall and it adds to the desperation of Iris' situation.

Iris Carr goes through a bit of character development throughout the film. She's spoiled, bratty and completely self-centered. The disappearance of Miss. Froy makes her shed those qualities pretty quick which is maybe a bit silly in the sense that she changes pretty much on the turn of a dime. It's forgivable I suppose, mainly because of Tuppence Middleton's performance. She definitely does an adequate job for what's required of her and she's thankfully less annoying than Cybill Shepherd in the role.

The surrounding storylines however are boring to be honest and most of the secondary characters are really only passengers in this movie. Their stories aren't very interesting and the actors don't do a very good job at looking interested either. There's also a blooming romance between Iris Carr and Max Hare (Alex Jennings) but sadly it isn't developed very well. It ramps up too late to be able to take it seriously.

The Lady Vanishes of 2013 is definitely better at creating suspense than it's 1979 sibling. Miles better. Tuppence Middleton is also perfectly fine as Iris Carr. However, the production at times feels very TV movie-ish because of some questionable editing and clear budgetary shortcomings. The surrounding characters are all very stuffy and uninteresting as well. Besides those problems, The Lady Vanishes can't hold a candle to Hitchcock's version in terms of its level of suspense, but it's definitely alright in that regard all the same. It's an easy improvement over the 1979 version.



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