The Lady Vanishes (1979)

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Released 15-Jun-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Teaser Trailer-(1:16) Excellent quality 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced.
Theatrical Trailer-(2:27) Excellent quality 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced.
Theatrical Trailer-(2:34) Same as above, without narration.
Gallery-Photo-60 b&w and colour stills and publicity shots.
Gallery-Photo-24 behind the scenes b&w photos.
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 95:14 (Case: 99)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Anthony Page
Studio
Distributor
Hammer Productions
Madman Entertainment
Starring Elliott Gould
Cybill Shepherd
Angela Lansbury
Herbert Lom
Arthur Lowe
Ian Carmichael
Gerald Harper
Jenny Runacre
Jean Anderson
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $14.95 Music Richard Hartley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.62:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Angela Lansbury and musical theme established.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     This is a release I have been waiting for since the introduction of DVD. In 1938 Alfred Hitchcock directed one of his great British classics, The Lady Vanishes, with Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Paul Lukas and Dame Mae Whitty. Just over forty years later, in 1979, there was a remake which met considerable critical panning. Madman has just released this Rank / Hammer remake in a quite beautiful anamorphic widescreen presentation which confirms what I have always thought. This remake of the Hitchcock original is a witty, beautiful and exciting version of a classic tale which deserves more acclaim than it has ever received.

     Much of the contemporary criticism of the remake focussed on the casting of two Americans in the leads. Elliott Gould was a popular leading man in the seventies, with his reputation founded on the original M*A*S*H movie. Here he dresses and behaves in quite a "British" manner, wearing tweeds and smoking a pipe. A genuine Brit would have added more chemistry to this pairing with the leading lady, Cybill Shepherd. By the end of the seventies there had already been considerable highs and lows in this actress's career. As well as scoring in The Heartbreak Kid (1972), her relationship both on and off screen with wonderboy director Peter Bogdanovich had her starring in The Last Picture Show, Daisy Miller and that unappreciated musical At Long Last Love. After their breakup there was a brief rebirth for the actress in Taxi Driver (1976) but after that roles dried up until The Lady Vanishes came along. Sadly there were few other offers, and it was left to the small screen to re-establish Shepherd as a bona fide star in the series Moonlighting and then Cybill. Two prized albums in my vinyl collection are the double gatefold soundtrack of At Long Last Love and Miss Shepherd’s solo 1974 album Cybill Does It to Cole Porter. The actress today works constantly in television, performs in cabaret, is an author (Cybill Disobedience) and remains a feisty, glamorous star.

     There would be few moviegoers who are not familiar with the basics of this tale. The time is August 1939 and a train is leaving Bavaria with an assortment of interesting passengers, all under the eyes of the threatening Nazis. A "much married madcap heiress" (Cybill Shepherd) becomes acquainted with an older English woman, a kindly nanny named Miss Froy (Angela Lansbury), who mysteriously vanishes. The baffled young woman can find no other passenger who will admit to seeing the now vanished Miss Froy and with the sceptical assistance of an American photographer for Life Magazine (Elliott Gould) she attempts to unravel the web of intrigue woven around the disappearance. Other intriguing and entertaining passengers include Herbert Lom as a doctor escorting a heavily bandaged nun to medical attention, and Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael as two cricket-worshipping Brits attempting to get home in time for the test. Under director Anthony Page (Inadmissible Evidence), the plot moves quickly, the dialogue sparkles with the humour of George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch), in his screenplay based on the original by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, and performances are uniformly excellent, with the climactic sequence on and around the train truly exhilarating. It should be said that Cybill Shepherd throws herself into the physicality of her role with an energy and abandon rarely seen on the screen - and no CGI! Throughout the entire film she has one costume, a loosely clinging satin evening gown that somehow stays in place without any apparent undergarments, certainly no bra. She is a marvel to behold running full pelt beside the train to be scooped up in Gould's arms. The behind the scenes shots included in the extras package reveal that her high heels were replaced by out-of-frame joggers for this sequence. Formidable!

     An enormous contribution to the enjoyment of this film is the widescreen transfer we are given. I had never seen this film in the cinema, only knowing it as one of my first PAL laserdiscs, with a pan and scan 4x3 transfer which offered probably less than half the entire widescreen image. In that form it was always obvious that we were missing out on much of the information originally contained in the film. Now we can see what we did miss out on. Director of Photography Douglas Slocombe (The Lion in Winter, The Music Lovers) uses the full widescreen image brilliantly, with magnificent vistas of the Austrian countryside, bridges and the glorious train itself. With interior scenes filmed at Pinewood Studios, the location shooting was undertaken in Austria with the co-operation of the Austrian Federal Railways. Just as impressive as the widescreen exteriors is the use of the difficult "Cinemascope" - here Panavision - frame in the confines of the train interiors. The composition in many scenes is quite startling, with most scenes apparently shot actually in the moving train. If those are processed shots through the train windows then I was totally fooled.

     This may not be a classic, but it is a class film. Superb in every technical detail, performed with energy and vitality and in this new release an absolute pleasure to look at. Give this Lady a look. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     As I have already noted above, this transfer is one of the most welcome in recent months. The original theatrical aspect ratio for Panavision in 1979 would have been 2.4:1. Here we have very close to 2.6:1, presented in a 16x9 enhanced transfer. The image is extremely wide, with larger than usual wide bars top and bottom of the widescreen TV. This slight matting manipulation was in no way distracting, and only added to the glorious width and freedom of the image.

     While not up to the standard of today's sharp images, the transfer is still extremely clear and sharp, with modest grain and just the occasional softness on close ups of the leading lady.

     Shadow detail is excellent and the Austrian countryside glows in the beautiful scenic shots. The colour is consistently glorious, with not one frame varying from beginning to end. Skin tones are exceptional. By contrast I played my new Blu-Ray copy of Bonnie and Clyde, which I remember as having beautifully natural skin tones in the cinema. The new transfer has what have become the norm for many transfers today - orange complexions. Then I went back to The Lady Vanishes, and pale faced, pasty Cybill Shepherd has every skin perfection glaringly exposed by the wonderfully natural skin tones.

     MPEG artefacts are very rare, with minor edge enhancement and some aliasing noted on fencing in the opening shot of Angela Lansbury in the field. No film artefacts were noted at all.

     There were no subtitles.

     This disc is an RSDL disc with the very smooth layer change occurring at 58:25.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Although this is a mono soundtrack, the sound is quite adequate throughout and never distracts from the enjoyment of the film.

     There is one audio track, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 224Kbps. The rapid fire dialogue was beautifully reproduced, with never a syllable lost. There were no sync problems, with no clicks, pops or dropouts.

     The musical score by Richard Hartley was delivered in rich and full orchestrations, with the plot crucial theme by Les Reed featured prominently.

     A movie as visually lush as this would have been beautifully complemented by a stereophonic soundtrack, but perhaps one never existed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     Graphic using artwork for the film plus the musical theme, presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. No animation.
Options are : Play Feature
Scene Selection : Selecting this mutes the sound and we get a still of Elliott Gould with ten scenes listed.
Special Features : Selecting mutes sound and gives us a still of Angela Lansbury, presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced.
Features offered are:
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Theatrical Trailer - no narration
Stills and Publicity
Behind the Scenes

Teaser Trailer (1:16)

    Presented 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced. This is beautiful colour and in almost mint condition.

Theatrical Trailer (2:27)

     Similar quality and presentation. Excellent trailer.

Theatrical Trailer : no narration (2:34)

     The same as above, just without the narration.

Stills and Publicity

    Sixty stills and publicity shots, some colour some black and white. All are nicely arranged in sequence progressing through the plot.

Behind the Scenes

    Twenty-four on set shots, all black and white.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At present there is no DVD release of this movie in either Region 1 or Region 2.

Summary

     As I said this title featured high on my "most wanted" list and to have such a beautiful widescreen presentation makes me very happy indeed. This is a film with much to offer. Great light entertainment presented with enormous skill and charm, and with climactic action that really does thrill. The extras leave a bit to be desired, but just having the movie itself is more than enough.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, August 16, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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