Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #145: Disappearances

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is disappearances, and once again I've picked three older movies. Well, technically four, since one of them was remade.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). An early British example of Alfred Hitchcock's mastery of suspense, this tells the story of a family (father Leslie Banks, mother Edna Best, and daughter Nova Pilbeam) on vacation in Switzerland. Somebody gets killed, and with his dying breath tells Dad an important international secret. There are nefarious people who don't want that secret falling into the "wrong" people's hands, so they kidnap the daughter and take her to England. Mom and Dad go around London separately trying to find her. This was of course remade by Hitchcock in Hollywood with James Stewart and Doris Day as the parents, but the original is a fun little 75-minute affair. Actually, I could have done an entire entry using only Alfred Hitchcock's movies, as others that fit include The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent, Saboteur and, I suppose, The Trouble With Harry.

Les diaboliques (1955). Michel (Paul Meurisse) is a martinet of a school master at a French boarding school, with both a wife (Vera Clouzot) and mistress (Simone Signoret) who are unhappy with him. The two women decide to gang up and murder him, drowning him in a bathtub and then dumping the body in the school's swimming pool. When it comes time for the police to search for the body, they drain the swimming pool... only for there to be no body! Needless to say, this is quite a shock to the women, one of whom handles it less well than the other. For those who are frightened by the shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho, this one is a perfect antidote. This one was remade in Hollywood in the 90s with Sharon Stone, but the less said about the remake, the better.

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965). Carol Lynley plays Ann Lake, a young American single mother with a daughter who decides to go to visit London to visit her brother Steven (Keir Dullea). Ann puts her child in a preschool, but when the time comes to pick the daughter up, the daughter isn't there... and there's no record that the daughter was ever at the school. Steven takes the case to the police, led by detective Laurence Olivier, but nobody is ever able to find any evidence that the kid existed. Is Ann going insane, and never even had a child? Or is something more nefarious happening? Noël Coward plays an upstairs neighbor.


joel65913 said...

Wonderful choices! I prefer the second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much but the first is a solid film. I think Hitchcock said something along the lines that the first was the work of a talented amateur and the second of an accomplished filmmaker when asked why he remade it.

Diabolique is such a great suspenser with brilliant performances by both women. I agree the less said about the Sharon Stone remake the better but there was a TV version in the 70's with Joan Hackett and Tuesday Weld taking over the roles called Reflections of Murder which is actually quite good.

This is the second mention I've seen of Bunny Lake is Missing, a great fit for the theme and an excellent film. I'm usually not much of a Carol Lynley fan but she does okay here and Olivier is terrific. It's well directed and consistently involving.

I count my first pick as one of my top favorite films, the other two not quite so high but I thought they were compelling nonetheless.

Missing (1982)-A young American couple Charlie and Beth Horman (John Shea & Sissy Spacek) are living in Chile while he works as a freelance writer observing the political situation. Suddenly they are caught in a coup and when Beth returns home one day their house is ransacked and Charlie is missing. When word reaches the States his disapproving father Ed (Jack Lemmon) arrives looking for answers. Despite assurances by the authorities that everything is being done an unbelieving Beth and increasingly doubtful Ed begin their own search, as they come to understand each other at last Ed’s eyes are opened to facts that go against everything he believes in. Riveting fact based drama directed by Costa-Gravas earned four Oscar nominations-Best Actor & Actress for Lemmon and Spacek as well as a Best Adaptation and a Best Picture nod.

Without a Trace (1983)-Susan Selky (Kate Nelligan) helps her six year old son Alex get ready and watches him set off on the three block walk to school in their affluent New York City neighborhood but he never makes it. When he doesn’t return home at the appointed hour she slowly comes to the realization that something is terribly wrong and contacts the police. Both she and her husband (David Dukes) are immediately suspected, when it becomes clear they aren’t involved the police follow other leads but the case soon turns cold. For everyone that is but Susan who becomes so determined in her pursuit she pushes almost everyone including her husband and good friend (Stockard Channing) away. However with the assistance of one detective who also won’t give up (Judd Hirsch) she presses on determined to have some resolution whatever that may be. Exceptionally well-acted but a tough watch.

The Seventh Victim (1943)-Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) arrives in New York City intent on locating her sister Jacqueline who has disappeared. As she starts searching she meets resistance from all quarters including her sister’s husband. As she delves deeper into the mystery she discovers a connection to devil worship and begins to fear for her own safety. Low budget noir produced by Val Lewton has a nice sense of dread and looks at a provocative subject for a forties film. This was future Oscar winner Hunter’s screen debut.

Paskalis Damar said...

Haven't watched any of it. But, seriously, I love visiting your blog! I learn a lot of things about classic cinemas. Keep up the great work, Ted.

Birgit said...

We match with Bunny Lake! That film freaked me out and I think it was somewhat remade with Jodie Foster but on an airplane. I love Diabolique and it was quite suspenseful. I saw the remake that Joel mentioned and that one is pretty good but the Stone one is...ughh. I actually enjoy both versions of your first film. Each is the same but done differently and who can forget Wue Sera Sear from the remake. In the original, I really liked Nova Pilbeam.

Daniel said...

God, I REALLY need to see Bunny Lake is Missing.

I like this version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, but I LOVE the Doris Day/Jimmy Stewart/Albert Hall version.

Love Diabolique, too.

Stephanie Marshall Ward said...

Great list! I haven't seen any of these movies yet.