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The Lady Vanishes – Alfred Hitchcock

Submitted by on November 4, 2010 – 4:13 pmNo Comment

Iris and Gilbert feign sleepiness to get Hartz to leave them; then, in a race against time, Gilbert climbs out the window of the locked compartment to reach the next one, where the nun is guarding Miss Froy. After telling Gilbert that she has not drugged their drinks because she could not tolerate the murder of a fellow Englishwoman, the nun helps him unwrap Miss Froy’s bandages. Just as they finish, Madame Kummer enters, so they overpower her and substitute her for Miss Froy.

When Hartz discovers the deception after the “patient” has been taken off the train but before it leaves the station, he arranges to have their train car uncoupled and diverted to a branch line. Finally, realizing what has happened, Gilbert and Iris go to the dining car and tell the other English passengers of their discovery. They are not, however, believed until the train stops and an armed officer approaches and offers to escort all of them to the British Embassy. Gilbert hits the officer over the head, takes his gun, and then makes his way to the engine to get the train moving again. Meanwhile, the cricket fans, proving to be unexpectedly competent with firearms, hold off a group of armed soldiers led by Dr. Hartz. Todhunter, a pacifist, wants to surrender, but when he leaves the train waving a white flag, he is shot.
Miss Froy, who up to now has refused to reveal what is happening, confides to Gilbert and Iris that she is a British spy. Before escaping from the besieged train, she imparts the secret information she is carrying—the vital clauses of a secret treaty between two European nations—to Gilbert so that the infor¬mation will have two chances of reaching the British Foreign Office. The information is coded in the form of a tune which Gilbert memorizes.

Unable to tell whether Miss Froy has escaped safely or not, Gilbert manages to get the train started just as Hartz and the soldiers prepare to board it, and they all escape across the border. Gilbert and Iris reach London safely, but when they arrive at the foreign office Gilbert finds that he has forgotten the tune. Suddenly they hear it being played on a piano in the next room and discover Miss Froy, alive and well. Needless to say, the course of events has caused Iris to forget her fiancé, and she now plans to marry Gilbert.

The tension and the chilling, undefined menace of international intrigue are masterfully maintained by Hitchcock and delightfully counterpointed by the film’s wit and humor. Indeed, much of the charm of The Lady Vanishes is due to its witty script and amusing characters. The humor is principally centered in the characters of the two British cricket fans, although Gilbert also has some funny exchanges with Iris. Perfect caricatures of the unflappable and insular Englishman, the cricket fans are disdainful of the “third-rate country” in which they find themselves temporarily stranded, and of Iris and her friends, whom they suspect of being rich Americans because of the manager’s obsequious treatment of them.

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