The Lady Vanishes

World War II was looming and nigh inevitable when Alfred Hitchcock directed The Lady Vanishes (1938). Beginning on a London-bound train from the nation of "Mandrika," the story starts small, as a young debutante (Margaret Lockwood) notices when a chatty fellow passenger (May Whitty) goes missing. Little old Miss Froy, as she's called, is the MacGuffin in the movie: Searching for her mere person, with the debonair assistance of Michael Redgrave, leads to the discovery of a much larger, Europe-threatening web of espionage and secret codes. On the train and in their snowbound inn, the travelers form a constellation of types: plucky Brits against Teutonic villains (enter Herr Doktor Egon Hartz!), surrounded by various Continental clowns. The mood is light, no matter how many storm clouds are gathering. Soon before leaving for Hollywood, Hitchcock has here perfected his comedy-thriller style—one that also neatly resolves into a marriage plot. Even so, history was outpacing the train: In another year, screen villains could simply be called Nazis; and there was no need for Mandrika, when Germany was the avowed enemy. NOTE: No early show on Sat. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Feb. 24-March 1, 7 & 9 p.m., 2012

 
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