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The Lady Vanishes
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Alfred Hitchcock classic contains several fatal and non-fatal shootings (though barely any blood is shown), plus an inferred strangling and some hand-to-hand fighting, which is more comical than serious. Social drinking (champagne) is fairly frequent, and a plot line revolves around a character possibly getting drugged. There are some don't-try-this-at-home stunts on a moving locomotive.
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What's the story?
In a mythical European country an avalanche temporarily strands an international group of travelers at an inn. Youthful Iris (Margaret Lockwood), from England, is reluctantly engaged to be married and is taking a train trip as one last adventure with girlfriends before her life settles down to unbearably boring routine. At the inn Iris befriends Mrs. Froy (May Whitty), who describes herself as a retired governess leaving the country to go back to London. Just before the train finally leaves, Iris is struck on the head by a falling flower-box (which may have been targeting Mrs. Froy) and boards the train, disoriented, with the old woman. When Iris wakes up she finds Mrs. Froy missing -- and all other passengers and staff deny Mrs. Froy was ever there. Only rakish musician-scholar Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) takes Iris' story seriously and tries to help solve the disappearance.
Is it any good?
Film buffs cherish this intriguing thriller as a peak of Alfred Hitchcock's U.K. film career before Hollywood wooed the British director to be America's "Master of Suspense." But it's got slightly old-fashioned dialogue and pacing (many jokes revolve around fans of the sport of cricket). By modern standards the narrative is a bit of snoozer, at least the first half hour, as Hitchcock calmly introduces ensemble characters in a hotel-bound setting. But then Mrs. Froy disappears, and the real suspense kicks in and never lets up. Those same colorful train passengers who were so silly begin to seem more sinister in their denials and dismissals of the frantic Iris.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the suspense in the film. Does it hold up as well for modern audiences as it did for the viewers in 1938?
Iris is a pretty old-fashioned movie heroine; a male bails her out of trouble and does the serious fighting (and most of the thinking). Talk about how screen starlets have changed (or not) over the years.