Mania Grade: B-
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- Rated: Unrated
- Starring: Tuppence Middleton, Jesper Christensen, Selina Cadell, Zsuzsa David, Benedikte Hansen, Tom Hughes, Alex Jennings
- Written By: Fiona Seres (screenplay), Ethel Lina White (novel)
- Directed By: Diarmuid Lawrence
- Network: BBC, BBC America
- Studio: BBC
- Run Time: 90 Minutes
- Original Year of Release: 2013
The Lady Vanishes DVD Review
By Robert T. Trate
February 07, 2014
The Lady Vanishes from the BBC
When the BBC remade “The Lady Vanishes” I had one word in mind, blasphemy. After all, one does not remake Alfred Hitchcock. If anything, only Alfred Hitchcock could remake Hitchcock and did so with The Man Who Knew too Much (see review). When I read that the BBC was going to remake the original novel by Ethel Lina White, then I became interested. What did Hitchcock do differently? Would there be any surprises? Should comparisons not be made?
The 2013 TV version of The Lady Vanishes adheres very closely to the story at hand. A young wealthy woman, Iris (Tuppence Middleton), gets a bump on the head before she is about to board a train. On the train, she is taken care of by the lovely Miss Froy (Selina Cadell) and then falls asleep. When Iris awakens, Miss Froy is gone. When inquiring where the woman went, no one knows whom Iris is talking about. It is then that Iris begins her mad search for the missing lady who had done her a kindness.
Immediately, I looked for the McGuffin. What was the sub plot to the story? In the 1938 version by Alfred Hitchcock, it is given to you without your knowing. That is where I got off on the wrong foot. I started with the Hitchcock mindset and from there, everything fell apart. Hitchcock made his version of the story while England was at war, so his film had a spy element to it. Here, the cast has the backstory of an influenza epidemic breaking out. They are anxious to get back to England and each has his/her own reason to do so in a hurry.
Iris’ search brings her into the company of Max Hare (Tom Hughes) and and the Professor (Alex Jennings). These two Englishmen are willing to help put her story to rest. At first they are accommodating, but as it seems that Iris is delusional, they realize they had best keep her quiet. The lynchpin in finding Miss Froy is that there appears to be one definite other who was also witness to Froy prior to her disappearance. Mrs. Barnes (Sandy McDade), the minister’s wife, lies about the entire incident for fear of being delayed returning to London and her son. That is just one example of Iris getting caught in the other passengers‘ web of deceptions.
Tuppence Middleton’s portrayal of Iris Carr really is the reason to watch this remake of The Lady Vanishes. She plays a different type of woman for this time, which is evident by the other female characters. She seems generally lost in the world with nothing to fight for. When she does find a cause, Miss Froy, she is proclaimed to be mad. Middleton wrestles with that and we see both an internal and external struggle. This is completely refreshing in a world where there are so few strong female parts and actresses.
If you are fan of The Lady Vanishes from 1938, this is a departure, most notably in the lack of humor supplied by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne who played Charters and Caldicott. In this version, these characters are two older woman. Their back/fourth is dry and not very appealing. The other big withdraw is the absence of the sense that everyone rallying together for the common good. The Lady Vanishes, here, does have this moment, but on a much smaller scale. I guess that is the difference when you have a world to fight for.
Check out Robert’s review of the Criterion Collection Edition of The Lady Vanishes here on Mania.com.