The Lady Vanishes (1938) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
192 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
10/10
An Early Hitchcock Classic
gftbiloxi21 May 2005
Although Hitchcock was noted for his wit and often sprinkled his films with wickedly funny moments, he seldom gave comic elements such a free reign as he did in THE LADY VANISHES, which is among the most memorable of his early British films. Charmingly cast with Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, and Dame May Witty in the leads, the extremely witty script mixes 1930s romantic froth with increasingly tense suspense in the story of sharp witted young woman (Lockwood) who befriends an elderly lady (Witty) during a train journey--and is extremely disturbed when, as the title states, the lady vanishes.

Many regard this as the best of Hitchcock's early work, and it is easy to see why: the film demonstrates his growing talent for building suspense from an unlikely mix of the commonplace and the incredible. He is also remarkably blessed in his cast, with Lockwood and Redgrave possessing considerable chemistry and Dame May Witty particularly endearing in one of the character roles at which she so excelled; the supporting cast is also particularly memorable.

Hitchcock guides them all with never a misstep through a complex script that progresses from very lighthearted to extremely sinister and then back again, and the result leaves audiences with both the satisfaction of a well-made thriller and the glow of a romantic comedy. Although it lacks the subtle tones of his later work, THE LADY VANISHES is among my own favorites by Hitchcock, and fans who have never seen it are in for a real treat. Highly recommended.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
101 out of 123 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Superb, suspenseful, brilliantly funny...
Nazi_Fighter_David3 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Alfred Hitchcock announced a call to arms in a brilliant and amusing thriller, "The Lady Vanishes."

The lady in question is Miss Froy (Dame May Witty), a splendid eccentric innocent old governess (in reality a British secret agent), who is kidnapped by the smooth Dr. Hartz (Paul Lukas), really the master enemy spy...

Involved in the rescue are Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), a sincere young musicologist trying on using up unwisely his life on unfruitful pursuits; Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) a pretty girl who is returning to London to sacrifice herself on the altar of nobility - she has accepted to marry a weedy little English count; and a hilarious sporting couple, Chalders and Caldicott (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne), whose only concern and topic conversation is the cricket match--will they make it back in home for the "big game."

Other characters include Percy (Cecil Parker), the pompous lawyer who is constantly afraid that his affair with Linden Travers will be discovered... Above all he does not want to be involved... He is the voice of pacifism and self-control... While the others fight it out with the enemy, he rushes from the coach waving a white handkerchief... He is shot, and dies never understanding why...

Hitchcock (and you never know with him) creates a multi-sided movie (superb, suspenseful, brilliantly funny), extending the power of stereotypes by caricaturing itself, making the audience express with laughter, and in a way they forget that they have just accepted some unpleasant tasting medicine...
26 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Delightful comedy thriller, the best of Hitchcock's British films
DrLenera26 September 2004
The Lady Vanishes is a wonderful piece of fluff, the culmination of Hitchcock's British period, after which he started to explore more serious themes in his American films. Of course the basic plot is absurd, centering around the most ridiculous way to get a secret message through one can think of, and why did.....o well, never mind, it's the handling that matters, and Hitchcock achieves a near perfect balance here of humour and suspense that he only really matched on one other film, North By Northwest.

The film spends 20 or so minutes just introducing it's characters, but they are all so great, especially the two men so obsessed with returning to a cricket match that a case of disappearance and possibly murder is relatively unimportant, that it hardly matters, while Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood simply sparkle as the main couple who of course initially can't stand each other. Once on the train, the ensuring mystery and sleuthing are riveting,and full of fantastic little details- the name on the window, the nun with high heeled shoes, the fight amidst a magician's paraphenalia The final shootout is excellently staged and still quite exciting. The laughs are constant, with some helarious lines, but they never detract from the suspense. Of course there's those shoddy model shots, but hell, this is a film from 1939!

Hitchcock had countless classics to come, including such complex masterpieces as Vertigo and Rear Window, but the delightful, hugely enjoyable The Lady Vanishes is a little masterpiece of it's own.
77 out of 102 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Fast moving early Hitchcock comedy/thriller with memorable acting and outstanding script
clive-381 December 2000
Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) mysteriously vanishes while on a long train journey through the Swiss Alps during a cold winter. Margaret Lockwood as Iris Henderson is the only person on the train who believes that Miss Froy has disappeared (or in fact that she even existed!) but Lockwood manages to persuade fellow traveller music scholar Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave) to assist her in the search. Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne (as cricket fans Charters and Caldicott) have seen Miss Froy but are fearful that an investigation into her disappearance might delay the train and therefore stop them getting to Manchester in time for their beloved Test Match so they decide to stay silent. Paul Lukas (Dr Hartz) tries to convince Lockwood she is mistaken and has imagined the entire episode due to a blow on the head she received prior to the train journey. Cecil Parker (Mr Todhunter) has his own reasons for keeping quiet as he does not want his illicit affair with Linden Travers to become public knowledge. Several other passengers on the train have seen Miss Froy but do not want to be involved which confuses our heroine and places her in grave danger as the journey progresses.

Shame about the fake model shots at the start of the film but this aside Hitchcock skilfully keeps the suspense at a high level and the witty script by Sidney Gilliatt and Frank Launder is both entertaining and enthralling. Hitchcock obviously has a liking for trains as his films have often featured long train sequences. "The 39 Steps", "Strangers on a Train" and "North by Northwest" are just three classic examples.

Some favourite lines from the film:

Margaret Lockwood: "I've no regrets - I've been everywhere and done everything. I've eaten caviar at Cannes, sausage rolls at the dogs. I've played baccarat at Biarritz, and darts with the rural dean. What is there left for me but marriage?".

Basil Radford (on the phone to London): "No, you don't follow me sir - I'm enquiring about the Test Match in Manchester. Cricket, sir, cricket!! What! You don't know! You can't be in England and not know the Test score!".

Margaret Lockwood (to Michael Redgrave): "I know there's a Miss Froy - she's as real as you are".

Paul Lukas (to Margaret Lockwood): "There is no Miss Froy - there never was a Miss Froy. Merely a very subjective image".

Although "The Lady Vanishes" is one of Hitchcock's very early black and white British films (1938) it anticipates the future expertise, skills and talent of this accomplished director and is well worth viewing. If you are waiting to spot Hitchcock's regular cameo appearance this doesn't take place until the closing minutes of the film so settle back and enjoy the plot then watch out for Hitchcock smoking a cigar at Victoria Station almost at the end! "The Lady Vanishes" was remade in colour in 1979 with Elliott Gould and Cybill Shepherd but the Hitchcock version is definitely the one to see. 10/10. Clive Roberts.
42 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
An early view into Hitch's genius
mjb01236 March 2005
From 1938, The Lady Vanishes is clearly where Hitch was getting comfortable in his trade. Starting slowly, it soon revs up with mystery and intrigue. But I think that was the whole point. A seemingly innocuous day can lead itself into adventure.

Starting in some remote European village, a woman meets a little old lady. Getting on the train the next day, the old lady vanishes without a trace while she is asleep. When she asks about the lady, people say that there was no old lady. The mystery then ensues as our leading lady tries to uncover the plot behind a woman she knows was there.

The main aspect of this movie is the everyday humor that is applied. The two English fellows who are only looking for the latest cricket scores, score themselves some remarkable laughs. Our hero that comes to the leading woman's assistance is funny and charming himself. The time spent at the beginning in the hotel may seem to be off topic, making a viewer wonder where the mystery is, but the point is that the viewer becomes acquainted with the characters and are much more believable to the viewer. Again, I think Hitch was showing us our next door neighbors and how they can rise up against unusually dangerous circumstances. I think my analysis of Hitch would be his championing the moral fiber of everyman. I think that is why Hitchcock films still stand today as some of the best ever made.

This movie receives my major recommendation. Not done yet. I got more to view and review. What fun!
33 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Classic Movies just don't get any better than this!
Translation-17 February 2005
A cracking plot, sparkling dialogue, great characters and sublime direction make The Lady Vanishes an all-time must see.

Marking the peak of Hitchcock's British period, it is an exquisitely crafted, finely wrought, cinematic treasure, boasting a cast which reads like a veritable Who's who of British acting talent from the Golden Age of British Cinema.

While the director, writers and supporting cast all deserve credit, the film very much belongs to its leading lady, the lovely Margaret Lockwood, who, as feisty heroine Iris Henderson, somehow manages to be heart-stoppingly beautiful, supremely sexy, spirited, cute and adorably vulnerable all at the same time! Now where can I meet a girl like that?

The Lady Vanishes is, for every reason, but especially because of Miss Lockwood, the very best of the very best; a landmark movie which is truly unmissable! Buy it, rent it, steal it if you must, but make damn sure you see it
50 out of 69 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
One of Hitchcock's Best!
bsmith555230 December 2006
"The Lady Vanishes" is one of Director Alfred Hitchcock's best British made films, in fact I think it's one of his all time best.

Set in pre-WWII somewhere in Europe, A group of people board a train bound for England after having spent the previous night in an overcrowded hotel. Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) befriends a kindly old governess/teacher, Miss Froy (Dame May Witty). When Iris is struck by a falling flowerpot, Miss Froy promises to take care of her as they board the train.

After having tea together, the two women return to their compartment where Iris falls asleep. When she awakes, Miss Froy is gone, totally vanished. The people sharing the compartment, "The Baroness" (Mary Clare), Signor and Signora Doppo (Philip Leaver, Selma Van Dias) deny ever having seen Miss Froy. Doctor Hartz (Paul Lukas) comes to her aid and is convinced that the bump Iris received to her head may have caused a memory lapse.

Iris then meets Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave) whom she had met the previous evening at the hotel. He offers his help. Skeptical at first, he soon comes to believe Iris' story. Eric Todhunter (Cecil Parker) and "Mrs." Todhunter (Linden Travers) deny seeing Miss Froy because they are in the midst of an extra marital affair. Two British "gentlemen", Caldicott (Naughton Wayne) and Charters (Basil Radford) though having seen Miss Froy with Iris, don't wish to become involved.

When Dr. Hartz brings a patient aboard the train, Gilbert and Iris become suspicious and.......................................

As was his custom, Hitchcock pits his heroine against all odds in her quest to find Miss Froy. The suspense builds as the situation becomes more hopeless. This would be a theme that the master of suspense would use throughout his career. He also liked to work trains into many of his plots, including this film of which three quarters takes place on board a train.

The scene in the hotel showing Caldicott and Charters sharing a bed (and a pair of pajamas) never would have gotten by the American censors. The relationship between the Todhunters as well, was quite obvious and rare for the American cinema of the day.

This is one of Hitchcock's best films and hasn't suffered because of age. Highly recommended.
41 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
A Million Mexicans Can't Be Wrong!
Bill Slocum30 December 2003
Alfred Hitchcock was noted for his light comic touch, but history records only one attempt at a full-out comedy, 1955's "The Trouble With Harry." The real trouble with "Harry" is it's not funny, but fortunately Hitchcock did leave us with a much surer and defter comedy in the guise of a thriller. Enter "The Lady Vanishes."

The opening scene gets a lot of hackles from people, as we find ourselves in a mountain valley where, after the credits roll, the camera glides over what is obviously a miniature train set. We even see a toy roadster glide by as the camera closes on the exterior of a model house.

Why, it's so primitive and fake! exclaim viewers accustomed to "Matrix"-style FX.

But they miss the point, and not just because they fail to take account of the time when the film was made. Here's what I think: Hitchcock shot the scene with a deliberate nod at the hokeyness of it, reminding his audience from the start that this is not the real thing but play-acting, to be taken as such. He knows it looks a bit phony (though the arresting pan-and-zoom would be the sort of opening other directors would imitate as soon as the technology let them). The focus of "The Lady Vanishes" is not politics, or even mystery. It is fun, in the same non-critical way as a child's entertainment. In this, Hitchcock succeeds, and creates no mere time capsule but a vessel of entertainment that has withstood decades of changing fashion, because it is first, last, and always fun.

"The Lady Vanishes" is the sort of film that works on pace, craft, and charm. The plot is well thought-out, provided you yourself try not to think about it much. There's really no reason for the story to go down the way it does, and once the movie is over, you begin to see the holes. Why is it necessary for British intelligence to go through so much trouble for info that could be just as easily delivered by telegram, or diplomatic pouch? Why, if you cold-bloodedly swipe a woman from a train, do you leave a witness behind to blurt out that there's been a disappearance? How come a name written on the inside of a train compartment window is erased by a blast of locomotive smoke across the outside of the window? But the engaging plot does what it is supposed to, keeping you interested and wondering what will happen next, rather than why it is happening the way it is.

The storyline of "The Lady Vanishes" is unlike any Hitchcock film. It's so light and airy that it reminds me more of a Tintin comic book, with the mythical Slavic nation of Vandreka the sort of simultaneously quaint and suspicious setting Herge would stick Captain Haddock and the Thompson Twins. Leave aside your sophisticated Dashiell Hammett-fed expectations for a moment. If you let yourself go, you will be transported, and quite entertained. Hitchcock never meshed comedy so thoroughly in the body of a story as he does here. Even "North By Northwest" has its serious spots, but "The Lady Vanishes" features a tense fight in a baggage car that's right out of Abbott & Costello and a climactic shootout that pauses for jokes between Caldicott and Charters, the cricket-mad pair who are a non-stop font of humor.

Margaret Lockwood is an effective plot vehicle as doughty Iris, who refuses to believe a knock on the head made her imagine the presence of the title character, Miss Froy. Michael Redgrave (Vanessa's pop) is a revelation as Gilbert, the folk-music scholar who half-humors, half-believes her strange tale until a stray scrap of trash converts him to her cause. He has a wonderful Errol Flynn-like quality, with his toothbrush mustache and his way with a quip.

Speaking of quips, the dialogue in this movie sparkles throughout, as when the barrister tells his mistress "The law, like Caesar's wife, must be above reproach," and she replies "Even when the law just spent six weeks with Caesar's wife?" Or when Iris asks how she was supposed to have replaced Miss Froy's face with that of the sinister Madame Kummer, and Gilbert replies: "Any change would be an improvement."

Interesting also for the opening, which ambles on for about 20 minutes before it starts to go anywhere, establishing the characters and the comic tone without offering a whiff of what the mystery might be. The close, too, with villains who seem oddly detached once the story is resolved ('Jolly good luck to them,' Paul Lukas observes enigmatically.) But that's for film scholars to muse over.

Hitchcock was never as agreeable a companion as he was here. And few films will put the kind of smile on your face like 'The Lady Vanishes,' no matter how long ago it was made.
40 out of 58 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Fans of "The 39 Steps" need to see this...
MovieAddict20165 November 2003
Before Alfred Hitchcock struck gold with such well known films as "Vertigo" and "Psycho," he made films in his native country: England. It was in the UK that he filmed such 1930s classics as "The 39 Steps," "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and "Sabotage." Among these was another slightly forgotten classic, 1938's "The Lady Vanishes." It starts as a cheery lightweight romp, it becomes a suspense-filled mystery, and it ends as an engaging thriller. Most movies nowadays get stuck in a rut and become nothing more than a run-of-the-mill action extravaganza set in a simple plot which serves as the way to get the characters on screen. Hitchcock did something else: He cared about the plot, stretched it out and made it elaborately intriguing, and then filled it in with the characters afterwards.

There's a mastermind behind this, and it belongs to that big horror master himself. "The Lady Vanishes" is one of his best early films (and it would be his last British film), a true sign of what was to come in the later years of his life. It was remade in 1979 with Elliot Gould and Cybill Shepherd, but lacked the freshness and striking narrative that the original contains.

In Germany, prior to World War II, a young woman travels cross country in a train, with an eccentric woman known as Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) as a companion. Froy is a short little woman who reeks of naivety and innocence. But perhaps not everything is as plain and simple as it seems--after falling asleep on the train for a short time period, Iris (Margaret Lockwood), the young traveler, awakens to find Miss Froy absent from her seat opposite herself.

The worst thing of all is that no one recalls having seen a little old lady aboard the train. Iris looks like a delusional loony, and she even starts to doubt the story herself, when odd clues start to turn up throughout the train. Enlisting the help of Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave), a goofy man who is crazy enough to believe Iris' story, the two search in a frantic race before their train meets its arrival and Miss Froy is unloaded--if she's even still on the train.

The fundamentals of the story lie in its plot, and also in its characters. They're all lovable, from Gilbert to Caldicott (Naunton Wayne) and Charters (Basil Redford), two traveling men looking to get back to England for a cricket tournament. After the train is stopped towards the end of the film and a band of Germans tries to board the plane, one of the men quips to the other something to the effect of, "We'll never be back for the cricket match, now."

It's interesting how so many mysteries make so much sense by the end, but you can't for the life of you guess the ending ahead of time. Sometimes this is not the case (I guessed the "surprise" ending of "Identity" from the trailer), especially nowadays with each mystery film being a retread of "The Sixth Sense." But back in the Hitch days, most every mystery was a complex one that had a totally unexpected climatic ending.

Filmed on an extremely low budget, "The Lady Vanishes" surprisingly boasts some amazing special effects in some areas, at least for the decade the movie was filmed in. One of these is when Gilbert climbs the exterior of the train, and on the opposite tracks another train swooshes by, knocking him backwards. You find this type of low-budget effect nowadays in homemade movies, but then it was quite good.

But other scenes are not quite as exquisite. The opening scene post credits, in which the camera swoops down into a small German village, is filmed well but the background and foreground are both models. If you look closely, you can see that the village folk walking along the street aren't actually walking at all--they're miniature figurines! Look for the little toy car that drives by behind the building--stuff like this is classic! But even with a horrible budget Hitchcock manages to control the scene the way he wants. It shows that even with a minimal amount of money he still tried to make everything intriguing and mysterious.

And that he did. Not only is "The Lady Vanishes" one of the best mysteries of all time, it's one of the best films of all time, too. It takes a while to start, but once it does, does it ever! It's low budget, yes, but not nearly as hard to make out as "The 39 Steps," one of Hitch's earlier British films. There are a lot of Hitchcock fanatics out there, and they may not have even heard of some of his earlier, lesser known films. Plus, they may be turned off by how hard it is to make out dialogue and scenes. ("The Man Who Knew Too Much" is notorious for being hard to understand.) And so for interested Hitchcock fans, your journey starts here.

Note: Towards the end of the film, look for a quick Alfred Hitchcock cameo. He's the man at Victoria Station who walks by with a cigarette.

5/5 stars.

  • John Ulmer
46 out of 68 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
the best of the early Hitchcock films
Dtkoyzis4 February 2001
This is the best of the early Hitchcock films. The plot is absorbing, the dialogue clever and the cast great. Whether or not this was the first of the director's films to place its principal action on a moving train I cannot say, but it's a theme that would come back again in his later work, most notably in "Strangers on a Train."

The film gets off to a somewhat rocky start with the camera panning over an Alpine inn and a train halted mid-journey by an avalanche. I agree with the review who observes that we've become spoilt by more sophisticated special effects. A Lionel half buried in a heap of bleached wheat flower just doesn't cut it nowadays. Think also of the stick figure engulfed in the munitions factory explosion in "Saboteur." I suppose directors of that era had to do with whatever was available.

But after this point the film really takes off, and one scarcely recalls the unpromising opening. Viewers always look for the chemistry or lack thereof between actors. Well, Lockwood and Redgrave definitely have it. One cannot help but enjoy seeing how the initial sparks flying between their clashing characters develop into true love by movie's end. As the two are making their way through the train trying to locate Whitty, they move from one barely plausible predicament to another. But we love it, as one witty exchange turns quickly into another. (For example, Lockwood is asked to describe the missing Whitty and launches into an extremely detailed portrait that leaves not a single button unaccounted for. Then she ends by saying, "That's all I can remember." Counters Redgrave dryly: "Well, you can't have been paying attention.")

Much of the film's action occurs in the fictional country of Bandrika, which seems to be a thinly disguised stand-in for nazi-controlled Austria, so recently annexed by Hitler's Germany. As an amateur linguist, I found myself trying to make sense of the made-up "Bandrikan" spoken by the natives, but of course was unable to do so. (What could it be? A Finno-Ugric language? :) Most of the time the identity of Hitchcock's villains remains deliberately vague, except in "Notorious" and "Torn Curtain," where they are nazis and communists respectively. It works better when he leaves us guessing.

As an amateur musician I loved Hitch's "macguffin," namely, the secret formula encoded in a song which the protagonists had to memorize and carry to the Foreign Office in London. (I should think, however, that a genuine secret message might translate into something more like Schoenberg's twelve-tone music than a central European folk song, but of course that would hardly work in a film. :)

The early Hitchcock seemed to like shootouts, as seen also in the first version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much." But shootouts are an ineffective way to convey suspense, and this is perhaps the one thing that dims what is otherwise a masterpiece.

It's too bad the director lived long enough to see this film remade in 1979. Cybil Shepherd is no Margaret Lockwood, and it's pretty unpleasant-almost embarrassing-to see her shrieking her way through each scene. Couldn't they have waited a few years until he had passed on? They ought to have let him die in peace.
48 out of 72 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews