Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)
, produced and directed by Otto Preminger.
An effective combination of two well-known themes: (1) the "vanishing", where someone disappears without trace and no one admits to having seem them, and (2) child abduction, always stomach-churning in its implications.
A 4-year-old girl has disappeared from her first day at school and no one remembers seeing her. Negligent mother? But then we find that all of her things have vanished from home. A deeper conspiracy? Realizing we've never actually seen the girl, we wonder if she really exists, or are we moving into a different sort of thriller, about madness?
It takes another weird twist when the young couple turn out not to be married, but rather brother and sister, unusually intimate. I know some families are more casual about nudity than I was ever used to, but really: she visits with him while he's in the tub...
Gorgeous B&W scope ratio composition, making great use of mid-60s London: the iron gates and fences, courtyards and twisty passages, complicated building interiors. Preminger uses many long shots without quick cutting, and relatively few closeups, portraying a realism of everyday life.
Laurence Olivier (top billing!) gives a fine performance, much more reserved than we often see in his theater-based acting, which sometimes tended toward hamminess. He plays a decent, intelligent police superintendent, formal when he must be, warm when he can be.
I love the bits of business he does with his sergeant, communicating with looks and secret hand gestures.
The commentary track points out something I hadn't noticed before: in swinging London of the rebellious 1960s, the police are cool and competent, doing everything they should.
- Our young American couple don't "fit in". That's part of the story: they are new to London and the locals are shown as eccentric and unhelpful in the face of crisis. It might be a limitation of the actors, but that might be why Preminger chose them.
- Olivier is such a strong center to the film that we miss him when he's gone for a long interval, as in the last act, which I've always thought went on just a bit too long.
- Plausibility: we're not really worrying about that, are we?
- The studio-recorded dialogue sometimes clashes with the realism of the image.
- Featuring "The Zombies" as a pop-culture tie-in seems like a gimmick now. There actually isn't any other swinging-60s content in the film.
- I never noticed before: it has a "surprise beginning", with the moving swing and a doll on the ground.
- When you have a bunch of kids, some are going to look into the camera. This is kind of endearing: children can see into other dimensions (where we are), just as they see the angels in Wings of Desire.
- I'm always startled by a creepy scene toward the end: the little girl pulling her burned toys out of her own grave.
- Noel Coward is the tipsy, pervy landlord.
- Dramatic Paul Glass score.
- Written by John and Penelope Mortimer. He had two wives named Penelope.
Twilight Time Blu-ray with lovely image and sound. Isolated score and the usual busy, happy commentary track by the regular crew. Intriguing conversation and they tabulate a few dozen British film faces flashing by.