‘The Lady Vanishes’ , Hitchcock’s 1938 thriller set mostly on a train , receives a ‘Madman Entertainment’ DVD release this month.
Clocking in at 96 minutes, it tells the story of the disappearance of Miss Froy, a charming elderly lady with an ear for music.
With the central performance by Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, along with supporting performances by Dame May Whitty, Paul Lukas and in a small role Googie Withers.
The ‘Surrealism’ of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) by Ken Mogg author … ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Story’ is a 14 page booklet inside the DVD case.
The back of the DVD case doesn’t indicate that this extra is actually the booklet, so you may find yourself trying to locate it on the DVD Menu screen.
Credit must be given to Mr Mogg – his booklet rightfully indicates at the top of page 3 that the ‘following essay contains spoilers’ … and as such must only be read after viewing the film.
Several pages are spent documenting background and key plot points from the novel ‘The Wheel Spins’ which was adapted as ‘The Lady Vanishes’. Mr Mogg then moves into key motifs used by Hitchcock in this film, and in previous and future films.
Often one can get lost in Mr Mogg’s precise dissection of ‘The Lady Vanishes’ , and as a result I found myself wandering around the page for information a bit more tangible.
The ‘Original Theatrical Trailer‘ is a nice addition. It has audio, although the image is somewhat worn, but it does give a good insight into the way British Films used trailer to entice viewers in. I would have liked either the booklet, or subsequent DVD Commentary to address Hitchcock’s trailer for this film – at no stage does Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) appear in the trailer – a smart plot device. It would have been interesting as well to investigate the use of graphics in the trailer over key scenes of the film.
This was a missed opportunity by MADMAN to delve a bit deeper with the Theatrical Trailer.
The Audio Commentary by Dr Brian McFarlane, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of English, Communication and Performance Studies, Monash University , is a hit and miss affair, that should have focussed on some key Hitchcockian trademarks a bit further.
Dr McFarlane starts off the audio commentary by narrating what is happening in the film, rather than identifying key themes or production information. However it must be said as the film progresses that he does reveal his insights into character development, but does miss key opportunities to tell us more about the actors in the film or in particular key crew members (information about editor R.E Dearing, or uncredited composers Louis Levy and Charles Williams would have been of interest).
I often find that commentaries focus too much on revealing what the plot is or character motivation, rather than enlightening the viewer with information about future career decisions by actors, directors, crew members, or production information.
As a result, Dr McFarlane’s commentary is rather dry, and unfortunately does not reveal much information that is enlightening to the viewer.
I would like to note, that I felt MADMAN had a chance to include further extras to the DVDs.
As is noted by Dr McFarlane in his commentary – Googie Withers is the last surviving cast member (at time of DVD release) from the film – and she now resides in Australia.
I felt that perhaps brief photos or text relating to Googie Withers career would have appropriate with this release.
Infact, research by me indicates that Googie Withers (aged 94 at time of this DVD release), conducted an oral history interview about her film career on 27 February 2001 for the Film and Broadcast Industries Oral History Group in Sydney.
It may have been appropriate for MADMAN to have investigate the possibility of playing extracts from that Oral History in some capacity on the DVD.
Madman must be congratulated on obtaining a near perfect print of ‘The Lady Vanishes’.
The picture never loses focus, or becomes grainy and maintains a clear, strong image throughout the whole film.
Below is further technical aspects provided by Madman.
Not one of Hitchcock’s finest productions. ‘The Lady Vanishes’ lacks the necessary thrills that Hitchcock had grown accustomed to in earlier films like ‘The 39 Steps’ and ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’.
It does take a long time for the story to get going, however Hitchcock manages to use the train setting quite well and keeps an interest to viewers.
If you haven’t got ‘The Lady Vanishes’ on DVD, this release is a suitable choice in terms of a strong, clear print, but the additional features are overly great.