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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > Murder > Comedy > British > The Lady Vanishes (1938/Criterion Blu-ray)

The Lady Vanishes (1938/Criterion Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B+     Film: B+



One of his most imitated films and one of his most enduring classics, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) has arrived from Criterion on Blu-ray in a restored edition that is one of the best upgrades of the year and will allow anyone to see the great mystery tale many will have swore they’ve seen before, even if they never saw this classic.


Margaret Lockwood is Iris, a train passenger who happily takes a trip that seems normal when an older lady named Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) who seems so nice is suddenly nowhere to be found.  Even worse, no one seems to remember seeing her, meeting her or anything else, which makes Iris start to question her sanity, but she is sure Froy exists and is determined to find out what is wrong.  Meeting Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) is casual at first, but he quickly becomes the only one who believes her, then things start to take more twists and turns that make this another one of Hitchcock’s early classics.


Cecil Parker is among the great supporting cast and the film turns out to be about more than the much-imitated set-up, but the leads have chemistry, there is much suspense here and Hitchcock managed to pull this off despite many budgetary constrictions.  With so many bad and idiotic mystery films being made now, The Lady Vanishes even embarrasses so many of them because it never wastes a moment and proves what real moviemaking is all about.  It was a big international hit too.



The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image transfer is from a restored 35mm fine-grain master positive that is a revelation as compared to the many bad copies circulating of the film over the years and even as compared to the earlier Criterion DVD (only their third at the time, they are in 600s by this posting on Blu-ray/DVD releases) and you can see the film so clearly that even those who have seen it many times will be surmised how it is like seeing it for the first time.  Director of Photography Jack Cox was one of British Cinema’s best cameramen and some of his best work ever (including effects shots) work as effectively as ever here.


The PCM 1.0 Mono track is also amazing, coming from a 35mm optical sound track print also cleaned up and restored.  In this case, you will be surprised how clean and clear so many scenes now sound after barely being able to hear it in any format (even many film prints) over the decades.  Hitchcock was a sound innovator as well and this has amazing character for its age.


Extras include the usually well-illustrated booklet on the film including informative text (including two essays: All Aboard! by Geoffrey O’Brien and Tea & Treachery by Charles Barr) and technical information, while the Blu-ray adds a great feature length audio commentary by film scholar Bruce Eder, audiotape excerpts from the sessions that created the classic interview book Hitchcock/Truffaut, a stills section, Hitchcock scholar Leonard Leff’s terrific video essay on the film called Mystery Train you should watch after seeing it and Crook’s Tour, a 1941 spin-off film here in high definition featuring the comical Charters and Caldecott duo from Lady Vanishes.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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