The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock on a Train)

I’ve been meaning to post about one of my favourite Hitchcock films since I began posting on here. You will recall that I began this blog with a post about trains, Alfred Hitchcock and psychoanalysis. You can remind yourself, here

Obviously, The Lady Vanishes (1938) scores. It is by Alfred Hitchcock and is set on a train. So, that is two out of three for starters. You can watch the film, here

NB – the Chinese video streaming websites are terrific for these old films. But their files are not listed on Google!

The LV comes from the end of Hichcock’s “English” period. These black and white films were made in the 1930s and explore some of the psychological themes that Hitchcock had discovered in Berlin during the 1920s. The English films describe these psychological themes within the context of a more structured, not to say repressed, society.

Anyway, the plot and main themes of LV are described, here

and, of course, there is a wikipage about the film, here

The story is a modern (20C) reworking of the classic “vanishing hotel room” trick. The original version is a late 19C story about what happens when the usual reference points of civilised society are turned on their heads. Circumstances, paranoia (anxiety) and feeling combine to uncover the social construction of reality and the dark consensus of social conformity.

The point is that, by placing the action of the film on the train, the story is given an extra dimension of suspense. We know that speed and time are conspiring to bring the story to a climax… it’s literally inevitable. Also, the train (especially the luxury trans-Eurpean express) is a place where social conventions are observed in their most minute detail. The transfer of the original story, from hotel to train, is entirely consistent.

There’s also a lovely gag about the two “little Englanders” travelling through Europe whose main interest is the test match score. The whole world is about to go up in flames and they are worrying about cricket!

Well worth watching.

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