The Lady Vanishes

“Do not confuse patriotism with prejudice.”

The Lady Vanishes

Is it just me, or is television obsessed with the 1940s and ’50s at the moment? First we had Restless, the world-war spy thriller; then there’s the overwhelming success of Call the Midwife, set in 1950s London; and now we have The Lady Vanishes, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name.

Rather excitingly, it’s set on a steam train crossing Europe, and has a definite Murder on the Orient Express feel to it. A young woman, Iris, takes a train from somewhere that looks vaguely Italian to Trieste on her way home. On the train, she meets Miss Froy, a governess who mysteriously vanishes; yet none of the other passengers appear to remember her. Aided by the rather dashing Max (who for some reason reminded me strongly of Robert Frobisher in Cloud Atlas), Iris Goes on a Mission to find the truth about Miss Froy’s disappearance.

It’s all slightly surreal, a whirl of sunstroke, improbably sinister faces and odd coincidences. For instance, the train appears to be full of the guests from the hotel at which Iris was staying (one of them, hilariously, appearing to be Roy’s mother from Coronation Street) and all of them have their own reasons for feigning ignorance of Miss Froy’s existence. And then there’s the blatant jingoism of the whole thing: “An Englishwoman has disappeared!” exclaims Iris, as if Miss Froy’s nationality was more important than anything else.

The Lady Vanishes is quite a lot of fun. It’s refreshingly different from a lot of the other gloomy, “gritty” dramas being shown at the moment (witness Broadchurch, Lightfields, Wallander etc.) with its highly-strung and frankly rather odd plot and the nicely unresolved romance between Max and Iris. Plus, it’s set on a steam train. A steam train with a library. What’s not to like?

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