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The Lady Vanishes
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder
  • Crook's Tour, a 1941 feature-length Charters and Caldicott adventure, available for the first time on home video, starring Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne reprising their beloved The Lady Vanishes roles
  • Excerpts from François Truffaut's legendary 1962 audio interview with Alfred Hitchcock
  • Mystery Train, a new video essay about Hitchcock and The Lady Vanishes by Hitchcock scholar Leonard Leff
  • Stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos and promotional art
  • PLUS: New essays by critic Geoffrey O'Brien and Hitchcock scholar Charles Barr

The Lady Vanishes

Re-release
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Cecil Parker, Linden Travers, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford, Mary Clare, Philip Leaver, Catherine Lacy
1938 | 96 Minutes | Licensor: Granada International Media

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #3
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 20, 2007
Review Date: December 6, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

In Alfred Hitchcock's most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe by train, meets Dame May Whitty's charming old spinster, who seemingly disappears into thin air. The young woman then turns investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure. The Lady Vanishes, now in an all-new digital transfer, remains one of the master filmmaker's purest delights.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection re-releases Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes in a brand new, two-disc special edition. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on the first dual-layer disc.

While the image is pictureboxed it still presents a drastic improvement over the original DVD Criterion released. The image looks much smoother, presenting very little in the way of artifacts. The image is also much sharper with an increased amount of detail. Contrast is drastically improved, and even the print has been cleaned up more. There is still a bit of damage but it’s quite minimal.

For the transfer alone the disc is worth upgrading to. It’s a large improvement over the previous release and shows just how far Criterion has come.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The audio is also better. Voices don’t sound as edgy and distortion is minimal. There are some harsh moments with music and effects, but the audio track has been restored and cleaned up quite a bit.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The big improvement on this release is the supplement section. But, unfortunately, I can’t say I got all that much from them.

Carried over from the previous release is the audio commentary by Bruce Eder. I’ve always liked his track for the film and his tracks overall. He is well prepared, obviously reading from notes, but he keeps the track going as he covers various aspects of the film’s production, Hitchcock’s career, and the careers and lives of many of the onscreen performers. As I said in the review for the original release the track isn’t very analytical but it’s entertaining, quick, and perfectly suits the film.

The remaining supplements are found on the second dual-layer disc.

First you will find Crook’s Tour, the complete film starring Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, reprising their characters of Charters and Caldicott who appear in The Lady Vanishes. Apparently these characters became quite popular and appeared in various movies and programs over the years (even television in the 80’s.) I liked the characters in Hitchcock’s film but on their own I find them a bit much, or at least in this film. The two find themselves in a case of mistaken identity as they’re confused for agents and come into possession of a record album that contains secret plans. They’re then chased across the Middle East, completely oblivious of course. I can’t say it did much for me, though it was at least somewhat amusing and it’s innocent enough. This is the third of four Charter’s and Caldicott films (including The Lady Vanishes.) There’s also a sub-section called About Charters and Caldicott which offers brief notes on the characters and their popularity. As a whole this supplement is interesting but not necessary to view. If you’re a fan of the film or the characters then this supplement is a treat as it’s not available on home video in any other way.

Hitchcock/Truffaut presents a 10-minute excerpt from the interview between Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock, recorded in 1962. Snippets of this interview has also appeared on other Hitchcock releases from Criterion. Next to the commentary this may be the best supplement since we actually get to hear Hitchcock talk about the film (though sometimes I think he’s yelling over the translator who is relaying the information to Truffaut.) He gets into the technical aspects of the film, such as a sequence involving two very large drinking glasses) the actors, and other similar films. The interview plays over clips and photos of the film. A subsection called about the interview presents a brief note on the 50-hour interview.

Mystery Train is a 33-minute video essay on the film by Leonard Leff. Speaking over sequences from the film, photos, posters, and so on, Leff covers some of the same ground as in the commentary, including Hitchcock’s early treatment by the British studios and his move to the States. But the bulk of it surrounds the production of The Lady Vanishes, including the adaptation of the book and the differences between the source and film, Hitchcock’s techniques, characters and their personalities, and also gets into the censors and politics (though I think he might be reading too much into any political aspect the film might have.) Unfortunately I can’t say I really enjoyed this supplement, which is very dry and manages to make what is really a quick moving, fun film almost a chore. Probably the most disappointing supplement on here.

A small Stills Gallery is also included on here, presenting set photos, posters (including what must have been the inspiration for the cover art of Criterion’s original release, what I consider one of the worst looking covers in the collection) and lobby cards. It’s a very small gallery, which you navigate through using the arrows on your remote, and is worth looking through.

Finally a booklet is included containing two essays, one by Geoffrey O’Brien, offering his analysis of the film, and then another by Charles Barr, which looks more at the English class system and how it’s presented in the film.

Missing from the original DVD release is the restoration demonstration (which would be different on this release anyways) and the essay by Michael Wilmington.

Overall, supplement wise, it’s an improvement but not a huge improvement over the original release. The commentary is still good and the interview with Hitchcock is a welcome addition, but the other supplements did very little for me.

6/10

CLOSING

The original release went for $39.95 and gave you next to nothing in the way of supplements, plus a very problematic transfer. This new release isn’t perfect but it is a big step up in both its transfer and supplements and is a little more deserving of the higher price point. I recommend this one over the original release for those that don’t yet own it. For those that already do own the original release I’m hesitant on recommending an upgrade. If the transfer is a concern then yes, the new release is worth upgrading to. But if you’re considering upgrading for supplements alone I’d actually recommend against it. The best feature is still the commentary, which is on the original disc and I can’t say the other supplements, not even the Hitchcock interview, is worth the double-dip.




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