Tag Archive: The Lady Vanishes


Review by C.J. Bunce

In the never-ending adaptations and updates of stories and novels by Agatha Christie, Hugh Laurie (House, MD, Roadkill, A Bit of Fry and Laurie) may have created the best yet.  In the three-part limited series Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Laurie, the always witty and sometimes dry writer, director, comedian, and actor has found the perfect story to add his signature style.  In stressing the fun of the thrill of the chase–and merging exquisite banter with the perfect cast of leads–Laurie’s series runs circles around the popular dark, dreary, and sometimes even unnecessarily grotesque Sarah Phelps adaptations of Christie’s stories (see our reviews of the recent Ordeal by Innocence, The Pale Horse, and The ABC Murders).  And even without the all-star casts of Kenneth Branagh’s big-screen adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, we’ll bet you walk away from Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? with a new favorite Agatha Christie story.

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Before you go out and read the novel the movie Bullet Train is based on, check out my review here at borg from last year.  Perhaps the English edition is a poor translation of Kotaro Isaka’s novel Maria Beetle, but I’m thinking it’s just simply a dry novel with a good title.  Either way, for a title like Bullet Train, it was lacking in many ways.  Happily, the first trailer for the movie adaptation starring Brad Pitt looks nothing like the novel, which was an homage to Thomas the Tank Engine cartoons (seriously!).  In the movie trailer Pitt appears like he’s stepping back into the role of Cliff Booth, that badass brawler from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (who was even better in Quentin Tarantino’s novel than in the film) So the good news is director David Leitch, known for actual action content like Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw, and John Wick, seems to be disregarding the book and focusing on what audiences would expect from that title: a big action movie.

Full of style and color (and action!) backed by a Japanese version of the BeeGees’ Staying Alive–check out the trailer for Bullet Train:

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Netflix’s new series The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is… weird.  The title makes it obvious that it’s meant as a parody of films like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Woman in the Window, and its star, an all-grown-up Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) will pull viewers in.  But it’s not quite funny enough, often enough, to be a comedy, and the plotline (and the casting, and the set design, and the costumes…) is drawn beat-by-beat from The Woman in the Window—so if you’ve seen that, you’ll know exactly what happens.  But it’s still better in almost every way than its inspirations, so if you’re dithering about what ludicrous suburban crime drama to watch, this is the one.

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Bullet Train cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill is an example of a spectacular Japanese novel that translated perfectly to the English language and Western audiences in the movie adaptation, Edge of Tomorrow, later renamed Live. Die. Repeat.  Kotaro Isaka’s Bullet Train, initially re-titled from its original name Maria Beetle, is the next Japanese novel on its way to the big screen, not starring Tom Cruise but Brad Pitt, expected to arrive in theaters next year.  It’s not what you’d expect, which is good or bad, depending on your tastes.  Despite that evocative title, it’s surprisingly not an action thriller.  It’s billed as social satire, like the French graphic novel turned Chris Evans movie and TV series, Snowpiercer, and that’s pretty much what readers should expect from Bullet Train, the novel, arriving in its first English edition in U.S. book stores next week.  If Snowpiercer was your thing, you may want to pre-order Bullet Train now here at Amazon.

The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Unstoppable, Murder on the Orient Express, Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, Von Ryan’s Express, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Silver Streak, Source Code, and yes, Snowpiercer, are the top 10 movies you probably think of featuring train action (oh, and don’t forget the original action movie, 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, discussed here and remade several times, plus props are due for train flicks The Commuter and Trading Places).  In each of these, a train goes out of control, or it gets highjacked, or hit by an avalanche, someone is kidnapped or killed, or the train is the target of a terrorist attack–all the kinds of dangers that couple well with a fictional speeding train.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

One of the news items from this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was a push of completed Disney and Fox movies out several months to insure full movie theater returns for the studio, while pushing out the door in advance of a full audience return films like The New Mutants and Kenneth Branagh’s follow-up to his adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, now arriving October 23.  Those of us excited for the next all-star Hercule Poirot adventure can be glad that at least means a home release sooner than later.  In the meantime Amazon Prime has a brilliant BBC production of a classic mystery novel, previously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, and adapted most recently in 2013, of The Lady Vanishes.  

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Notorious isn’t just the name of an Alfred Hitchcock film, it describes the reputation of the acclaimed director over the course of his 55-year career.  Over the course of his films he would become famous for not only the blonde actresses in his films, but his misogynistic, voyeuristic, fetishism themes and content.  A precursor in many ways to Quentin Tarantino, Hitchcock nearly 40 years after his death is as popular as ever, with his film Vertigo still on many critics’ lists as the best American film of all time.  Those who view his films are left to wonder how much of the content of his films were the man, and how often was he simply selling what moviegoers were looking for–something new, something surprising, something stylish, and something shocking.  The flip side of Hitchcock viewed as provocateur is the fact that his films always featured a strong lead woman–sometimes from the opening scene and other times by film’s end–and the actress was often the only name marketed above the title, including some of the most fierce and compelling women characters ever filmed.

Scotland author Caroline Young takes a compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films in her new book Hitchcock’s Heroines, a photograph-filled hardcover from Insight Editions.  Young, author of Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, Tartan & Tweed, and Style Tribes, sources interviews with the actors as well as interviews with Hitchcock to gain a better understanding of what motivated his work.  He spent the first half of his career–represented by the first half of the book–developing the style he would come to be known for by the time of his 1954 success Rear Window, culminating in his ideal production team: costume designer Edith Head, production designer Robert Burks, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and editor George Tomasini.  Hitchcock knew that most of his audience were women and believed that in the 1940s-1960s women usually determined what movie a couple was going to attend.  So the appearance of his leading women was as important, if not more important, than any other part of the film.  He also had an eye for using color and wardrobe as part of his storytelling tools, perhaps changing a character’s muted-toned costumes to striking and contrasting by film’s end to represent a character’s change in mood, strength, or growth.

Hitchcock’s Heroines is a superb source of costume sketches, costume designs, and production stills spanning Hitchcock’s directorial career.  Young includes with her discussions of each actress and corresponding character the costumes and costumers, which amounts to a history of Hollywood costume design artists, including Jean Peron, Dolly Tree, Joe Strassner, Marianne, Irene, Edward Stevenson, Vera West, Gilbert Adrian, René Hubert, Howard Greer, Edith Head, Christian Dior, Milo Anderson, Moss Mabry, Helen Rose, Harry Kress, Rita Riggs, Helen Colvig, and Julie Harris, although it was also not beyond Hitchcock to source his own vision from off-the-rack wardrobe from Western Costume Company or Bergdorf Goodman. Hair style and hair color is also a recurring theme Young pursues in the book.

Young references an interview from 1931 where Hitchcock discussed selecting actresses for roles: “The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience.  Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex.”  It is noteworthy that Hitchcock was not always responsible for who starred in his films–Young cites instances where studio head David O. Selznick directly cast Hitchcock’s leading actors.

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