Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

The Lady Vanishes (Again)

By David Luhrssen
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The challenge of remaking a classic film begins with the question, “Why do it?” With the recent remake of The Lady Vanishes (out on DVD), the answer is that the screenplay is true to the otherwise forgotten novel (Ethel Lina White’s The Wheel Spins) that was the source for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 classic. Hitchcock took great liberties while the director of the new version, Diarmuid Lawrence, was determined to be faithful.

A polished period production in the “Masterpiece Theatre” mode, the latest Lady Vanishes stars Tuppence Middleton as protagonist Irish Carr, a wealthy young Englishwoman on holiday in Yugoslavia. Unlike Hitchcock’s protagonist, the new Iris is not especially warm and endearing but is an arrogant snot—borderline hostile to anyone not from her posh young “smart set.” That adds another dimension to her difficulties, sharpening her predicament on the long train ride home that occupies much of the picture. No one believes her story that an elderly English spinster has someone disappeared on the train. The new movie’s Iris is deserving of a “Yeah, whatever” response to anything she says or does.

Hitchcock played The Lady Vanishes as a light spy caper. The new version is darker, involving a conspiracy among a sinister group of passengers, inadvertently abetted by the self-centered unconcern of most everyone else. The remake probably won’t cause film buffs to forget the original, but it could prompt them to see the Hitchcock film in a new light.

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