"The Lady Vanishes": Remake Better, Worse, the Same?


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Whenever a classic is remade, it's risky and bound to be compared. The 2013 version of The Lady Vanishes premiered on PBS Sunday, and it had some Hitchcockian shoes to fill.

The newest version received the TV movie treatment for PBS' "Masterpiece Mystery!" series, and had already aired on BBC One in March in the United Kingdom.

Both the original, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1938, and this 2013 remake, are based on the novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White. The story takes place in the 1930s and is about a young British socialite, Iris, on her way home from the Balkans. While on the train home, Iris gets knocked in the head. She then meets and befriends an older woman, Miss Froy. After Iris wakes up, Miss Froy is nowhere to be found. The socialite confronts all those on the train about Miss Froy's whereabouts, but each person says they never met Miss Froy and that maybe Iris' knock to the head has caused her to hallucinate the woman's existence. Iris is only able to persuade one young man to believe her. Together, they try to solve the mystery of the missing Miss Froy.

It seems for one critic, the 2013 remake was a miss.

Mike Hale of The New York Times said, "This new “Lady Vanishes,” directed by Diarmuid Lawrence from a screenplay by Fiona Seres, is a perfectly adequate television mystery of the week. But it forgoes the crackling pace, light touch and surprisingly sophisticated sexual banter of the original, opting for melancholy, ominousness and sentimentality. It’s about five minutes shorter than the Hitchcock, but its deliberate pace makes it seem longer. Watching the two in succession is like transferring from the express to a particularly poky, poorly ventilated local."

Not everyone seemed to agree that it was all bad. David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle thought it was a "pleasurable remake," adding, "Hitchcock did it better, of course, but at least the filmmakers knew better than to transfer the story to, say, the less-romantic sterility of a contemporary high-speed rail service."

It seems some viewers of the remake agreed more with Wiegand than Hale.

This isn't the first time someone has remade The Lady Vanishes. It was also redone in 1979, starring Cybill Shepherd, Elliott Gould, and Angela Lansbury.

Here are the trailers for all three versions. See if they can help you decide which one you would prefer.