The Lady Vanishes: Was Alfred Hitchcock’s Original Better?

Addam Corré - Author

Aug. 19 2013, Updated 1:04 p.m. ET

The decision to remake the classic film The Lady Vanishes for television was always a bold one. The original version was directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1938.

The original screenplay was adapted from a novel by Ethel Lina White called The Wheel Spins. It had all the components to make it the roaring success it was when it was released over 70 years ago.

The story was basically about a young woman who meets an older woman on a train. The old woman subsequently disappears into thin air, with the other passengers on the train insisting she never existed in the first place.

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The 1938 version, which was an epic British comedy thriller, had an all-star cast including Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, and Paul Lukas. The film featured Basil Radford as the character, Charters, who was a cricket enthusiast rushing back to see the last day of the test match.

The latest remake of The Lady Vanishes is not the only time attempts have been made to capture the glory of the original version. Back in 1979, a remake of the film was produced but did not enjoy much success at the box office. It is hoped the latest BBC adaptation of the film for television will be more successful.

Mike Hale from the New York Times reviewed the new TV drama but, like many other critics, is not convinced that the 2013 version is worth it’s weight. He notes:

“Now, unfortunately, come the comparisons. This new ‘Lady Vanishes,’ directed by Diarmuid Lawrence (‘South Riding’) from a screenplay by Fiona Seres, is a perfectly adequate television mystery of the week. But it forgoes the crackling pace, light touch and surprisingly sophisticated sexual banter of the original, opting for melancholy, ominousness and sentimentality.”

It’s about five minutes shorter than the Hitchcock version, but its deliberate pace makes it seem longer. Watching the two in succession is like transferring from the express to a particularly poky, poorly ventilated local. (Another more obscure adaptation, from 1979, starred Cybill Shepherd, Elliott Gould, and Angela Lansbury.)

It remains to be seen exactly what kind of success the latest The Lady Vanishes will enjoy. Did you ever see the original Alfred Hitchcock version of the film? Have you seen the new TV adaptation? Share your comments in the feed below.


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