The Lady Vanishes (1938) review

A film about an elderly lady who seems to have disappeared from a moving train, and a young lady who had made friends with her, tries to discover what has happened to her.

A mystery thriller which is as racing and brilliant as few I have seen in a while. The simple action of finding a missing person under a time restraint is one of the most nerve-racking tensions you’ll experience.

The film deals with trying to locate Miss Froy, an elderly woman who has disappeared from the train altogether. Miss Froy goes through the train with Iris, a young girl whom she met in the hotel before boarding the train. When Miss Froy goes missing, everyone says that they have not seen her, that Iris has been alone this whole time. Is Iris hallucinating Miss Froy, or is everyone lying? It’s a tense moment when you may believe that Miss Froy is nothing but imagination, but more interesting when you start to think she might be real after all.

There is a scene before Iris gets onto the train, in which an object falls onto her, and we may think that this has caused her hallucinations, but we remember that she has seen Miss Froy before this happened. In another scene we see Miss Froy write her name on the window, and when Iris begins looking for her, she sits down undecided on if Miss Froy was really real or imagination. Careful observers will notice that her name is still written on the window, long before Iris does. The mystery is great and keeps the audience guessing as to what is really happening, and plays out incredibly, although the mystery isn’t the core of this film.

The characters are the real core of this film. All of them are fun, and more than what they seem. Gilbert who at the start seems like an arrogant, clever, witty smart ass, who in the end, while still keeping his smart ass arrogance, becomes a loveable, helpful, charming, incredibly clever hero; Dr Hartz shows us a kindly helpful doctor, turns into someone cruel, with secrets; Madame Kummer, who is dressed like Miss Froy, and everyone believes that Iris has mistaken Miss Froy, becomes a ploy; and two English gentlemen who start out posh and in a hurry, almost rather self-centred, become brave and willing to help those in need. The characters are all relatable in one form or another.

The characters all have different reason for lying to our heroes. Are they lying at all and merely mistaken or they really didn’t see anything? Are they lying for personal reasons, not allowing themselves to be mixed up in a potential crime? Are they part of a conspiracy? There are so many questions and reasons for what they characters do.

All the characters are more than they seem, at the start we barely see what they are, someone we thought was an ass is so kind and helpful, someone who seems so indecisive becomes so firm in their convictions, someone who seems selfish is so helpful and kind. People come together when someone needs help, I truly believe that, this film reminded me that you should never judge a person by what you see on the surface.


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