The Lady Vanishes (1979)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Elliott Gould and Cybill Shepherd in The Lady Vanishes (1979)

Disappearance She Wrote

Here is a simple truth, if Alfred Hitchcock hadn't already made "The Lady Vanishes" back in 1938 people's opinion of the 1979 version would be higher and that is shown in the opinion of those who watch this 1979 version having never watched Hitchcock's version. Now I've seen Hitchcock's version and enjoyed it purely because it is fun at the expense of English stereotypes, that aspect doesn't really manifest itself in this remake despite the inspired casting of Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael as two cricket loving Englishmen. Instead we get the addition of wise cracking banter between Cybill Shepherd and Elliott Gould in the lead roles which whilst initially snappy and fun ends up becoming annoying and as that is what this remake really focuses upon it does make it a bit monotonous.

After a night of frivolity in a Bavarian hotel, American Amanda Kelly (Cybill Shepherd - Taxi Driver) wakes up worse for wears and late for the only train out of the Nazi occupied town. Having rushed on to the train having already bumped into sarcastic charmer Robert Condon (Elliott Gould - Escape to Athena), Amanda meets Miss Froy (Angela Lansbury - Bedknobs and Broomsticks), a kindly English Nanny who is heading home after years abroad working for a German family. But when Amanda wakes up from a doze Miss Froy has disappeared and no one seems to remember ever seeing her forcing Amanda to try and convince Robert she's not crazy and needs his help to find her.

Angela Lansbury as Miss Froy in The Lady Vanishes (1979)

For the most this 1979 version of "The Lady Vanishes" is similar to that of Hitchcock's 1938 version which makes me think that this version is adapted the 1938 screenplay rather than the original novel. What does that mean, well there are a few noticeable changes when it comes to characters and scenes from the opening which does away with the model railway element and gives us something which looks like it has come out of "Heidi" and the initial meeting between Robert and Amanda is different. But the basis of the story is the same with Miss Froy disappearing and Amanda and Robert trying to find out how she could vanish on a moving train.

What is different is the style of humour because the 1938 version played heavily on the humour of the English stereotypes where as this version is all about the banter between Shepherd and Gould. Now that banter is initially good fun and watching Shepherd in a Marilyn Monroe style dress is certainly eye catching but even before half way it starts to get monotonous as there is very little humour elsewhere. In fact director Anthony Page missed a trick as the casting of Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael was perfect as the two cricket obsessed English gents but what they get to do is quite weak and never fully delivers the comical punch.

And when it comes to missing a trick the poor use of Angela Lansbury as Miss Froy is a big one. Now understandably for much of the movie we have Miss Froy's mysterious disappearance but when she is in the scenes Lansbury deserved sharper dialogue than she got as most of the time she almost dodders around aimlessly.

What this all boils down to is that "The Lady Vanishes" for me is okay but inferior to Hitchcock's 1938 version. But it isn't terrible and for those who watch this never having seen the Hitchcock version will probably enjoy the banter between Gould and Shepherd more than I did.