Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Lady Vanishes: Review

my copy
Here is another entry into the Book to Movie Reading Challenge (as well as a whole boat load of other challenges).  Ethel Lina White's novel The Wheel Spins (1936) was snapped up by Alfred Hitchcock and transformed into The Lady Vanishes (1938). This is another of the very rare cases where the movie is better than the book.  Or maybe it's just that once I find something in one medium I rarely like it better in another....I first watched The Lady Vanishes about 20 years ago.  I thoroughly enjoyed Margaret Lockwood as Iris Henderson, a rich young Englishwoman who befriends a governess by the name of Miss Froy while traveling on a train through Europe.  Mid-way on their journey, Miss Froy disappears and Iris cannot make anyone believe that the woman ever existed, let alone that she has vanished.  Her fellow passengers blame Iris's "fantasy" a blow to the head that she had received earlier, but Iris knows that something is wrong.  Gilbert, a musicologist and fellow passenger, is the only one who finally believes her and together the two piece together how someone could not only disappear into thin air, but have their existence erased completely as well.

The book is very slow-moving. The beginning, which I guess is supposed to drill firmly into the reader's mind how selfish Iris is, really doesn't seem to all that necessary--at least not in the length presented.  And it takes a good half of the book to get to the real action--the disappearance of Miss Froy.  There is good build-up of Iris's frustration and her feeling that perhaps she really is mad (as suggested by several passengers)  She is far more on her own than in the movie--in the book, she appeals to a professor and his young friend, a linguist, but neither of them truly believe her the way Gilbert does in the film.  The novel, as a whole, didn't hold me the way the movie did and it ended fairly abruptly.  Hitchcock is a master and mixed just the right amount of humor with his suspense.  He adds a few characters (such as Charters and Caldicott, the cricket enthusiasts) for color and tells a ripping good tale.  He also adds a more detailed, action-packed ending to add a bit more excitement.

If you're going to do both--I would definitely suggest reading the book first.  It's possible that a reader coming to the story in book-form first might have a greater appreciation for White's novel.  I don't think reading the book first will dampen your enthusiasm for the film.  Two and a half stars for the book.  Four stars for the film.

Challenges: 150 Plus Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, Book to Movie Challenge, Ethel Lina White, Mount TBR Challenge, Off the Shelf, Outdo Yourself, Vintage Mystery Challenge, European Reading Challenge, Around the World [For European & Around the World Challenges--takes place on a train in the "Balkans" which covers parts of Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, etc. I have arbitrarily attributed the action to Bulgaria.]


TracyK said...

A nice review. Reading the book does interest me, even if it does not measure up to the movie. Glad I saw this.

Ryan said...

I agree, it's hard to fall in love with a book if you adore the movie so much. I had the same problem with The Thin Man.