THE LADY VANISHES
1938, Park Circus/MGM, 97 min, UK, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

No one believes witty playgirl Iris Henderson (a fine Margaret Lockwood) when she claims the elderly “governess” Miss Froy has mysteriously disappeared from a train en route from the fictional country of Bandrika to Western Europe. No one, except for charming Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), who joins forces with Iris to expose the foreboding magic trick of a woman vanishing into thin air on a moving locomotive. Featuring mesmerizing overlapping camera work by cinematographer Jack Cox and a script loaded with can’t-believe-that-slid-past-the-censors political doozies, THE LADY VANISHES is so much more than its usual branding as “light entertainment” - it’s Hitchcock at his pre-Hollywood best, a perfect blend of suspense and screwball.Watch for Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford as two cricket-obsessed fellow passengers - their pairing here was so successful, they co-starred in a further 10 films playing essentially the same characters!


SUSPICION
1941, Warner Bros., 99 min, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s technique takes a huge leap forward with this extremely unsettling piece of "escapist" entertainment. Young wife Joan Fontaine suspects that husband Cary Grant is trying to kill her, and the question of whether she’s prescient or paranoid dominates the film. Throughout the movie Hitchcock toys with our assumptions, a conceit that works thanks to Grant’s astonishing performance (one of the best of his career). Without resorting to gimmicks or dishonesty, Grant convincingly plays the husband in a manner that makes both his guilt and his innocence equally valid possibilities, and Hitchcock adds to the overall sense of menace with subtle visual devices (he rarely shows Grant actually walking into a shot, for example - he always seems to magically appear like a ghost). The studio-imposed finale has divided Hitchcock fans on SUSPICION’s merits, but Grant’s consummate professionalism allows Hitch to pull off the last-minute reversal.


SHADOW OF A DOUBT
1943, Universal, 108 min, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

What starts out as a charming portrait of idyllic small-town life gradually darkens into one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most devastating thrillers. Teenager Teresa Wright’s romantic illusions about her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) gradually are shattered by the suspicion that he may be the diabolical Merry Widow serial killer. Add to the mix a rewardingly rich tapestry of eccentric characters (Henry Travers, Hume Cronyn and Patricia Collinge are standouts in the cast), and you have one of Hitchcock’s most brilliantly constructed films.


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