“I don’t see how a thing like cricket can make you forget seeing people.”
A young British woman (Margaret Lockwood) travelling on a trans-European train befriends an elderly governess (Dame May Whitty) who suddenly disappears. When nobody on board the train will believe her story, Iris (Lockwood) turns to a musicologist (Michael Redgrave) for help in unraveling the mystery.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Amateur Sleuths
- Hitchcock Films
- Michael Redgrave Films
- Mistaken Identities
- Mysterious Disappearance
- “No One Believes Me!”
- Paul Lukas Films
- Trains and Subways
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary and many other critics have noted, this “vastly entertaining thriller ranks with The 39 Steps as the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s British films”. It’s filled with “wit, suspense, sex, romance, a wonderful array of characters (enthusiastically played by an excellent cast) and a fascinating mystery”, and features characters who all “turn out to be different than they first appear”. Unfortunately, it takes a while for things to get going: the first twenty minutes or so merely serve to establish the characters and their relationships with one another, and first-time viewers may become impatient. Once the train has boarded, however, the excitement really begins, as Hitchcock explores one of his favorite cinematic tropes: the nightmare of not being believed.
Lockwood is “most appealing” as the leading protagonist (a “frivolous” rich girl who essentially “comes of age” on the train), and Whitty — who “has spirit and energy that belie her age” — is perfect as the mysterious title character; meanwhile, Redgrave (in his film debut) slowly grows on you as his character matures and he rises to the task of assisting Iris. The remaining supporting characters are all perfectly cast as well — though I must admit I’m not a fan of comedic team Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, playing a pair of self-absorbed, cricket-obsessed Brits (they went on to star in several other films together — including the anthology horror flick Dead of Night, co-starring Redgrave). Peary notes that they provide “much of the film’s humor”, but I find them merely distracting and annoying. With that said, they — along with several other passengers — show their true colors in the film’s final dramatic sequences, when all loyal Brits are called upon to fight against corrupt Balkan police; indeed, this film — made just before the dawn of World War II — is, among other things, a clarion call to action against fascist forces.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Margaret Lockwood as Iris
- Michael Redgrave as Gilbert
- Dame May Whitty as Miss Froy
- A highly suspenseful script (by Sidney Gilliat, Frank Lauder, and Alma Reville)
Yes, as a classic Hitchcock thriller. Nominated by Peary as one of the Best Pictures of the Year in his Alternate Oscars book.
- Genuine Classic
- Important Director