An early Alfred Hitchcock effort, when he was still making films in England, The Lady Vanishes begins as an ensemble farce before it settles into the familiar motions of mystery and suspense. The movie opens in a small European hotel, where a band of international travelers vie for limited rooms and meals before leaving on the morning train. Once aboard, a young woman (Margaret Lockwood) notices that an older British lady who had been sitting near her has disappeared.
When the other passengers on the train deny ever having seen the older woman, we’re in the usual Hitchcock territory: one of suspicion, paranoia and possible delusion. The difference here – as opposed to Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window – is the lighter tone. Despite the sinister goings-on, The Lady Vanishes proceeds with a light, carefree air. The banter shared by Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, as a musician who aids in the search, even mimics the Hollywood screwball comedies of the era. The result is something of an anomaly: a breezy thriller. Hitchcock movies usually menace us, but The Lady Vanishes is more fun than any picture of his has a right to be.