Monday, 18 March 2013

The Lady Vanishes - BBC film review

The Lady Vanishes is one of Alfred Hitchcock's enduringly popular movies, and for good reason. The performances are excellent and the story is hugely entertaining. A remake some years ago starring Cybill Shepherd was reviewed so negatively that I never summoned up the enthusiasm to watch it. However, I was encouraged to watch tonight's new version for the BBC, not just because the cast included Keeley Hawes,but also because the screenplay was said to focus on the source material for the original film, rather than the screenplay for it.

The source was The Wheel Spins, by Ethel Lina White, who was a highly successful writer of the Golden Age, and who came from Abergavenny. I was interested to find, when I visited the town a couple of years back for a CWA conference, that even though not a great deal is widely known about the detail of her life, she is still remembered there. And so she should be. Her novels of psychological suspense, focusing on women in jeopardy, are very well crafted. I'd like to find out more about her.

The ditzy young socialite,Iris Carr, originally played by Margaret Lockwood, was here played by Tuppence Middleton. Tuppence, yes, a name straight out of Agatha Christie. And she would make a good Tuppence Beresford, I'm sure. Her performance was feisty and fun, a smart portrayal of a selfish young woman who discovers a sense of purpose in life when a gossipy woman she meets on a train disappears and everyone else denies she ever existed.

It's quite a risk to re-make a Hitchcock classic, and only worth doing if you're going to do it really well, and add something fresh. That was the test I set for the BBC version - and it passed with flying colours. The original has some wonderfully witty lines, and I do love the cricket fans Charters and Caldicott, who didn't feature in the book or in this version, although they did feature in a so-so TV spin-off in the 80s. But despite a lack of humour in the script, the story was told with pace and panache, and the result was a thoroughly enjoyable piece of light entertainment. One of the more worthwhile remakes that I've seen in recent years.


Anonymous said...

Martin - I'm glad you found this remake so well done. You've got a good point that that doesn't happen very often! I'll be interested to see it if it gets to where I live.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I enjoyed this too. All the cast gave great performances and I was particularly impressed with Tuppence Middleton's diction - I could hear every word she said, even at the amazing speed that she spoke! That's getting to be rare in TV dramas these days. said...

Sorry, all round a very poor production.

jonathanframe said...

I agree with the comments about the performances but as a thriller, sorry, but the 1938 film and even its celluloid cousin once removed, Flightplan, ticked those boxes far more convincingly than this. And is there any reason why Miss Froy wasn't simply killed and thrown off the train rather than left trussed up where any of the train's staff could've happened across her?

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, I hope you get to see it. I am confident you would enjoy it.
Margaret, good point! She was excellent.
Destinationamerica, we'll have to agree to disagree.
Jonathanframe, there was an answer given to your question in the script, though of debatable merit. But such is the way of mysteries like this one.