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The Lady Vanishes(1938)
In Alfred Hitchcock’s most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe by train, meets a charming old spinster (Dame May Whitty), who them seems to disappear into thin air. The younger woman turns investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure.
For more about The Lady Vanishes and The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray release, see The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray Review
Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
» See full cast & crew
The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 1, 2011
Winner of Best Director Award at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include John Baxter's feature film "Crook's Tour" (1941); video essay by film scholar Leonard Leff; collection of behind the scenes stills, lobby cards, and posters; and a short excerpt from Francois Truffaut's notorious interview with the British director. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring essays by critic Geoffrey O'Brien and Hitchcock scholar Charles Barr. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes opens up in a small hotel somewhere in the fictional European country of Mandrika, where a group of colorful international characters are quickly introduced while trying to check into an overcrowded hotel. A day later, they all head to a nearby station to board a long-distance train. There, one of them, Iris (Margaret Lockwood, Give Us The Moon, Cast a Dark Shadow), a beautiful young woman heading back home to England to get married, receives a knock on the head with a flowerpot. Her new friend, Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty, Night Must Fall, Mrs. Miniver), a bubbly lady who is also going home after many years of living in Mandrika, offers to look after her.
On the train the two women have tea. Then, still feeling dizzy from the knock, Iris takes a nap. When she eventually wakes up, she discovers that Miss Froy has vanished. She attempts to find her, but the more questions she asks, the more confused she becomes, because neither the passengers nor the staff would acknowledge that a woman matching Miss Froy's description was ever on the train.
Enormously frustrated, Iris begins looking for clues that could explain Miss Froy's strange disappearance. The only person willing to assist her is Gilbert (Michael Redgrave, The Browning Version, The Dam Busters), a young and handsome ethnomusicologist, who has earlier managed to upset her while improvising on his clarinet.
A stuffy neurosurgeon from Prague (Paul Lukas, Watch on the Rhine, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea) eventually suggests that the type of confusion Iris is experiencing is not uncommon, because a knock on the head with a flowerpot is a very serious matter and she might be hallucinating. A pretentious German Baroness (Mary Clare, John Huston's Moulin Rouge), an Italian magician (Philip Leaver, Vampire Over London) and his wife (Zelma Vas Dias, The Golden Door) immediately agree with him, while the only true cricket fans on the train, Caldicott (Naunton Wayne, The Titfield Thunderbolt) and Charters (Basil Radford, Whisky Galore!), become seriously annoyed with the unnecessary drama.
Based on a novel by Ethel White, The Lady Vanishes was one of the last films Hitchcock made in Britain (after Jamaica Inn, the director went to work in Hollywood under contract for American film producer David O. Selznick). The script for it was written by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who also wrote the script for Carol Reed's similarly themed - and regarded by some to be a loose sequel to The Lady Vanishes - Night Train to Munich.
The key to the film's success is its setting – a moving train with a motley crew of characters. Within the confines of the train Hitchcock creates a terrific suspenseful atmosphere and at the same time allows the romantic relationship between Iris and Gilbert to blossom. There are plenty of excellent comedic overtones as well, which the majority of the director's American films lack.
Not all of the key characters get an equal amount of time in front of the camera, but all of them are well defined. Their strengths and weaknesses are highlighted in terrifically scripted sequences that shape up the entire film. Even the most seemingly random exchange of lines is done for a good reason. The film's only weakness is that the plot eventually veers off into absurdity and climaxes with a finale that is charming but utterly unbelievable.
Technically, the film impresses with creative camerawork and strong editing. The costumes and decors are also very good, and one does get the impression that the majority of the film was shot on a real moving train.
Note: The Lady Vanishes was apparently one of French New Wave director Francois Truffaut's favorite Hitchcock films.
The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm composite fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Martin Southworth/Rushes, London."
The high-definition transfer is a revelation. Every single area of importance we typically address in our reviews, from detail to clarity to color reproduction, has seen dramatic improvements. The darker sequences, for example, that were so problematic on the old Criterion DVD release have been impressively stabilized. The color-scheme is also better balanced, with the grays and blacks in particular looking very healthy. Film grain is fully intact, well resolved and visible throughout the entire film. There are no traces of problematic sharpening and contrast boosting. The high-definition transfer is also free of aliasing, banding, and ringing patterns. There are a few small vertical lines and tiny flecks that occasionally pop up, but there no are large damage marks, cuts, stains, or warps to report in this review. All in all, Criterion's presentation of The Lady Vanishes is competent and enormously satisfying. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The Lady Vanishes is primarily a dialog-driven feature. Naturally, there are only a couple of scenes - such as the dance practice in the hotel early into the film and the massive shootout at the end - where dynamic levels are elevated. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. Also, there are no sync issues, distortions, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Lady Vanishes, one of the last films Alfred Hitchcock made in Britain, is a delicious blend of suspense, romance, and comedy. Predictably, Criterion's presentation of the film is competent and enormously satisfying. The Blu-ray also contains John Baxter's feature film Crook's Tour, which reunites the eccentric cricket fans Charters and Caldicott. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in December: Lubitsch, Hitchcock, Suzuki - September 15, 2011
The Criterion Collection has posted their full roster of Blu-ray releases for December 2011. Titles include Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living, Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, and two films from Seijun Suzuki: Branded to Kill & Tokyo Drifter. Only Lubitsch's ...
• Criterion Teases The Lady Vanishes Blu-ray - September 14, 2011
While the Criterion Collection will release their December 2011 Blu-ray slate tomorrow, the distributor has posted a still frame on their Facebook page hinting at a potential title. Criterion will not confirm what film the shot comes from until tomorrow, but most ...
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