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Its inevitable that this would be compared to Hitchcock's 1938 original but for me there are many pleasures to be had in this elegant comedy-thriller. Douglas Slocombe's Panavision photography is wonderful and the playing of all involved is beautifully poised. George Axelrod's reworking of Sidney Gilliat's screenplay adds a nice screwball touch with his one-liners and Ian Carmichael and Arthur Lowe as the cricket-obsessed British tourists add humanity to their chauvinistic bullishness. And as a self-confessed Angela Lansbury fan I of course relished her depiction of Miss Froy. On a big cinema screen this looks terrific.
There was no need for this movie to be made (but that is true for most remakes). The original is a classic and generally considered the best of Hitchcock's early British films. But if you forget about the comparisons and let this remake stand on its own, it's actually pretty decent: good-looking, beautifully scored, and well-cast, even in the secondary roles. The two leads are likably goofy (they do bring a 70's flavor to these 30's characters, which may or may not be to your taste), and male viewers will be glad to know that Cybill Shepherd spends the entire running time wearing a white dress that reveals her sexy back, arms and shoulders. If I can point one flaw in this movie, it's that the script doesn't build enough ambiguity - even people who don't know the story won't think for a moment that it could all be "in Cybill's head". But it's clear that the intention here was to create a light comedy-mystery, not a suspense classic. (**1/2)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Almost all the ingredients are present for this to be a charming and colorful remake of an Alfred Hitchcock classic: stunning scenery, lovely music and talented behind-the-scenes craftspeople. Unfortunately, a pair of anachronistic lead actors does everything but sink it. Shepherd plays an American heiress in the late 1930's, continually marrying and divorcing as part of a plan to glean her inheritance. From Bavaria, en route to London, she boards a train, still hung over from a night of revelry and wearing her evening gown. A kindly nanny (Lansbury) takes her under her wing, inviting her to lunch and seeing that she gets a nap during the long trip. When Shepherd awakes, Lansbury is gone and what's more, no one will admit to ever having seen her! Gould, a magazine photographer, begins to assist Shepherd, never quite sure if she has actually seen this woman or if she's hallucinating after a drunken night that continued into a tipsy morning. The duo is also aided by doctor Lom. Practically everyone else seems in on some grand conspiracy to cover up Lansbury's existence. Gould and Shepherd delve further and further into the mystery as the danger escalates. Despite her presence in other non-contemporary films such as "Daisy Miller" (another flop), Miss Shepherd has no business acting in a period piece. Though she does look nice in her dress, her manner is far too brusque and her carriage is far too contemporary to pull off playing someone from another era. Apart from that, her horrible, flat voice is completely at odds with the material and she simply can't muster up any enthusiasm for the proceedings. At one point, Gould accuses her of being hysterical and yet she's just as sedate and unexcited as she was before. Her makeup looks, at times, clownish, with all the highlighter applied under her eyes paired with bright blush. Gould, another actor who should only be cast in present day projects, gives into one concession for his period role. He parts his unruly hair and tries to mush it down. Otherwise he, too, is all wrong for this time and setting, though at least he attempts to give a performance. They share precious little chemistry and their misguided performances threaten at all times to derail the movie. Lansbury offers up a characterization that would soon become very familiar to viewers of "Murder She Wrote", as her work here and that of the early years of the TV series are quite similar. Lom is dependably solid. Old pros Lowe and Carmichael ably portray a couple of cricket-obsessed fussbudgets who alternately help and hinder the investigation. Harper and Runacre are a pair of secretive lovers. Nedeva does well in a small role as a nun. Some exquisitely beautiful Austrian scenery helps add a bit of luster to the film, but it's not enough to plug all the holes. While the plot line is creaky (and has been used in countless other films and TV shows), it would still be irresistible if not for the jarring presence of the two leads. Fans of theirs will be far more forgiving, but those who like a little class and authenticity in their films will be put off by their frequently obnoxious characterizations.
The story is silly -- well, preposterous really, but it's great fun.
I agree that the Shepherd and Gould are a bit tiresome and overdone, but in fact, on the whole, they're fun too.
The best feature of the film is Angela Lansbury. She is brilliant as the nanny, catching every nuance with perfection, and should have had some kind of award for her performance.
The cricket fans are good and Gerald Harper is also convincing and chilling as the hard-hearted adulterer.
It is refreshing to see a film where there are no computer effects, and where real locations are used. I don't think we'll see too many films made this way again.
I haven't seen the original but I watched this with 1 hour delay on two channels simultaneously, I was at home with a cold at the time and feeling very sorry for myself. Anyway, if you would just put the two leads aside for a moment (although Eliot Gould was SO cute in the movie and Cybil Shepperd did the visual pun of Marilyn Monroe on the air vent very well when she gets out of the train...) The thing I really liked about this film were the characters of Charters and Caldicott - they made me laugh hysterically - there they are drinking tea - understating this understating that - then suddenly.....they are really terrific minor characters. I would love a whole film on those two. Very affectionate look at English manners. ARTHUR LOWE MADE ME FORGET HOW ILL I FELT!
Ugh! What a mess! Only Angela Lansbury among the major cast members stands out. Cybill Shepherd seems to have the "madcap" part down, but too often she is merely silly rather than funny. As for Elliott Gould, he seems completely miscast, and acts as if he wandered in from another movie. This is hardly an improvement of -- or even an enlightening insight into -- the Hitchcock original. Only intermittently entertaining, but, by all means, see it if you're a Lansbury fan : she's wonderful!
Remake of a British 1938 Michael Redgrave film with Dame Mae Witty and Margaret Lockwood. The 1979 version, done as a Cybill Shepherd and Elliott Gould vehicle, pushes mainly its comedic/farcical elements instead of it being s legitimate mystery itself. The political intrigues and treacheries of the years between the First and Second World Wars made a better basis for the 1938 film than the 1979 film had. Alfred Hitchcock had still been in Britain when his 1938 film was made. Hitchcock had a sure hand utilizing the looming dangers and unease of the time, just one year prior to Britain's actual 1939 entry into WWII. The 1979 film isn't rotten but it simply doesn't hold up when weighed against Hitchcock's original. If you watch the 1979 movie, do so expecting a comedy not a mystery, and do so before you ever have seen the Hitchcock version.
Angela Lansbury plays a nanny turned spy who is attempting to get back to Britain with some vital information. Set in Pre-WWII Germany this movie chronicles the trip of Cybill Shepherds character back to the UK to be reunited with her fiancé. On the train she befriends Ms. Froy and another American (played by Elliott Gould). However, things go awry when Ms. Froy seemingly vanishes into thin air and nobody on the train seems to have any memory of her. Is Shepherds character losing her marbles? - Gould certainly seems to think so...that is until he spots something out of the train window for a fleeting second. Its a superb story and very satisfying. I really enjoy this charming thriller.
There's a strong tendency to compare Hitchcock's version of "The Lady
Vanishes" with the 1979 version starring Elliot Gould, Cybill Shepherd,
and Angela Lansbury. There's no need to do so. Both have the same title
but entirely different moods. This doesn't make one "better" or "worse"
than the other. They just should be judged on their own merits.
Both are thrillers, one more somber and tense, and the latter version more of a melodramatic mystery with comedic touches.
What I would suggest is that the viewer simply watch both versions, recognizing the strong and weak points of each. Both are enjoyable, but to interject a personal note, I tend to lean toward this 1979 version for its tone that's more like other mystery films such as "Charade" or "North By Northwest".
Enjoy them both as different cinematic expressions and let others worry about comparisons.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie, as the remake of a classic, could have been a brilliant
success, such as "Murder on the Orient Express," and even the
spoofy-but-still-compelling "Silver Streak." But the finished product
turns out to be more of a comedy than the suspenseful "Who-Dunnit,"
like the original masterpiece this was supposed to have remade.
Blame the absurd casting of Elliot Gould, and the horrid direction Sybil Sheppard was given.. Sheppard can be a good actress. But this is one of her more unfortunate performances. As a "madcap heiress," she comes off more like Meg Ryan's "flibberty-jibbet" character in "Joe vs. the Volcano."
"Much-married, madcap heiress," she corrects Gould in his reprisal of her performance of the night before.
Gould just isn't Peter Ustinov (or Albert Finney for that matter), which seems to be the men he attempts to mimic. If that is the case, he missed the mark by a country mile. He, in no way, even begins to fill those shoes.
The European anti-American sentiments are well displayed and conveyed here, and Sheppard's character does little to change that.
While this is still a fun, suspenseful film, it is nothing like the original in that it captures none of the fantastic suspense lent by Hitchcock's direction. Although the spoof is unintentional, this is more like the "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" version.
Amanda Kelly (Sheppard) is befriended by the kindly Miss Froy (Angela Landsbury), a motherly type who lends a hand and offers the British solution for most ailments; chicken soup and a nice cup of tea. Kelly dozes off on the train and when she awakens, Miss Froy is absent. The other members of the car in which they are seated, seemingly have no memory of Miss Froy, and they begin to "Gaslight" Kelly.
Even the waiter who served Miss Froy and Ms. Kelly in the dining car, has no memory of Miss Froy. Indeed, he presents Kelly with a ticket indicating that she paid the bill herself, was alone and unattended.
Robert Condon (Elliott Gould), also a passenger aboard the train, is somehow whirl-winded into a search for the elusive Miss Froy, and before you know it, he is sleuthing the mystery with Ms. Kelly.
Where is she, what has happened to Miss Froy, and why? Unfortunately, while this is a fun adventure, it's more funny than fun. It lacks in wit, and your humor is more at the expense of Gould's and Sheppard's performances than the dialog.
It lacks the intelligence and careful direction of the original. Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" is a much better endeavor, and I highly suggest it in place of this poor remake. Hitchcock must have puked upon seeing this.
What should have been an epic homage, ended up being a sad parody of a great masterpiece of suspense. While it is still enjoyable, it could have been oh-so-much-more, and was in other versions.
It rates a 4.3/10 from...
the Fiend :.
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