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Lady Vanishes, The
Release Date(s)1938 (December 6, 2011)
Studio(s)United Artists (Criterion - Spine #3)
Lacking somewhat Alfred Hitchcock's legendary plot build-up and crisp though at times clinical execution, and seeming at times almost accidental in its script machinations, The Lady Vanishes (1938) is still one of his most satisfying and purely entertaining comic thrillers.
Margaret Lockwood plays an attractive young woman traveling Europe by train who encounters a charming spinster-aunt-type (Dame May Whitty) who later just seems to vanish. Unable to get people to believe her, Lockwood tries to investigate the disappearance herself, aided by fellow passenger Michael Redgrave. Adding spice and vitality to the whole concoction are a sometimes entertaining and at others mysterious group of other passengers, principal of which are the cricket-obsessed Englishmen Charters and Caldicott (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne respectively). The talented and memorable cast also includes the familiar Cecil Parker, Paul Lukas, and Googie Withers, as well as Emile Boreo (as the flustered hotel manager). The result is just plain delightful fun that maintains interest throughout as Mae Whitty's disappearance is finally resolved. The film is now available on Blu-ray from Criterion and it definitely looks superior to any previous home video incarnation. The 1.37:1 image is quite sharp and offers a nicely-detailed gray scale with appropriate grain evident. Whites are very clean and while blacks are acceptable, they could be a bit deeper. There are a few speckles and the odd scratch still evident, but nothing of any significance. The PCM mono sound is free of hiss and crackle. Dialogue is clear and well balanced with sound effects and the small amount of background music. English SDH subtitling is provided. Chief among the notable supplements are Bruce Eder's typically enlightening and easy-to-listen-to audio commentary, and the complete 1941 feature film, Crook's Tour, which features Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne reprising their Charters and Caldicott characters. The engaging film (though I prefer Night Train to Munich myself as a later film featuring the pair) finds them mistaken for spies in the Middle East. It's presented in HD and looks quite presentable though not as impressive as The Lady Vanishes. Other extras include a booklet of two essays on the film, excerpts from Francois Truffaut's 1962 audio interview with Hitchcock, a video essay on Hitchcock and the film by Hitchcock scholar Leonard Leff, and a stills and poster gallery. Very highly recommended.