The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes is a) very enjoyable, b) a remake of the seminal 1938 Hitchcock thriller of the same name and c) a Daily Mail readers’ wet dream.

You can imagine them watching this lavish production, armed with tea and biscuits, booing at the Johnny Foreigners while cheering on our plucky British heroine and almost certainly chipping in with a ‘quite right too, what?’ whenever Iris Carr (our main character played by the fantastically named Tuppence Middleton) complains that ‘everyone should just speak English.’

Another thing that (possibly) encouraged the Mail readers to tune in is the fact that the plot is about as complex as a Richard Littlejohn column. The characters explain everything as they go along so there is no possibility of a twist – good or otherwise. The best example is when  Max Hare (Tom Hughes) speculates why the villainous Baroness carried out the main dastardly deed in the first place. Instead of coming up with three or four wildly different possibilities, he comes up with one – which just happens to be the truth. The rest of the plot can be summed up by the title and the words, ‘on a train.’ Iris Carr is a rich girl travelling back from somewhere – I can only assume it is the Balkans as that is the only country mentioned, though it looks more like Africa to me – and while suffering from sunstroke is looked after by a lady, who – SPOILER ALERT – vanishes.. The drama has the style of an ITV Agatha Christie complete with cut glass accents, but absolutely no mystery. None of the side characters are fishy or distracting to the main plot thread. The two old women are just there to talk about roses and make sarcastic comments (which are fun). The Vicar and his wife are there to look ill or worried respectively while Keeley Hawes and Julian Rhind-Tutt just hide in their compartment and look bored. This is especially annoying as both actors can be excellent and could really bring something to this drama. Perhaps this show’s biggest crime is the ending. After not being believed for an hour or so, a couple of characters change their mind and say that Carr is telling the truth and suddenly – shock horror – she is believed. I was so surprised nearly choked on my lemonade! It was all a bit of an anti-climax and a let down for poor Carr. For a character with so much agency up to that point, the ending undermines her completely. Having said all that I couldn’t help but enjoy The Lady Vanishes. Like the Daily Mail sidebar of shame, you have to disengage the critical part of your brain and let it wash over you. The main characters were great with Middleton carrying the drama excellently in a way that really made you worry about her character. Tom Hughes was foppish and loveable while Alex Jennings, as Tom’s Professor, was wonderfully exasperated by the whole thing. The director Diarmuid Lawrence really put you in Iris Carr’s head, especially during the sun stroke sequence. Also the way he used the set was brilliant. What was probably one corridor was made to feel like a whole train. In fact, it brought back hellish memories of the 10.43 to London. The Lady Vanishes was perfect Sunday night television: fun, silly and highly enjoyable. Just don’t think about it too much or it will unravel like a Daily Mail exclusive.]]>