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Friday, 3 May 2013

Classic Film Review: The Lady Vanishes (1979)

Although it has many flaws, The Lady Vanishes still remains an enjoyable film, not to be taken too seriously with some amusing performances. Based on the novel The Wheel Turns by Ethel Lina White and the 1938 Hitchcock film, this version too self-conscious and hammy on occasion but, having neither seen the original film nor read the book, I can't really comment on comparisons.

Cybil Shepherd stars as Amanda, an American woman heading to England to marry for the fourth time. She makes a spectacle of herself in the hotel the night before her departure, leading to a hangover. Once on the train, the kindly Miss Froy (Angela Lansbury) looks after her and takes her for a cup of tea. They return to the carriage and Amanda falls asleep. But when she wakes up Miss Froy is gone and the other occupants of the carriage swear that she never existed. Amanda refuses to give up, enlisting the help of photographer Robert (Elliot Gould) and Dr. Hartz (Herbert Lom) to help her prove her case but things get stranger as the journey continues.

Apart from Angela Lansbury - who puts in a typically understated performance - the stars of this film are Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael as Charters and Caldicott, two British cricket-obsessives who are desperate to get home to England and find out the score of the test match. They provide some of the most memorable lines of the film and I cared more about their survival than Amanda and Robert's.

This a light mystery and an opportunity for Cybil Shepherd to be seen in a very nice dress for ninety minutes. Gould seems more suited in his role, mocking himself constantly, whilst Shepherd becomes shrill and too melodramatic, even for this film. It's not a spectacular piece by any stretch of the imagination but there are some good moments, mostly related to cricket and tea.

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