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Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) DVDRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
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Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)
Ann Lake has recently settled in England with her daughter, Bunny. When she goes to retrieve her daughter after the girl's first day at school, no one has any record of Bunny having been registered. When even the police can find no trace that the girl ever existed, they wonder if the child was only a fantasy of Ann's. When Ann's brother backs up the police's suspicions, she appears to be a mentally-disturbed individual. Are they right?
Laurence Olivier ... Supt. Newhouse
Carol Lynley ... Ann Lake
Keir Dullea ... Stephen Lake
Martita Hunt ... Ada Ford
Anna Massey ... Elvira Smollett
Clive Revill ... Sergeant Andrews
Lucie Mannheim ... The Cook
Finlay Currie ... Doll-maker
Rod Argent ... Himself (as The Zombies)
Paul Atkinson ... Himself (as The Zombies)
Colin Blunstone ... Himself (as The Zombies)
Hugh Grundy ... Himself (as The Zombies)
Chris White ... Himself (as The Zombies)
Noel Coward ... Horatio Wilson (as Noël Coward)
Adrienne Corri ... Dorothy
The vast range of responses to and assessments of this movie here are a tribute to what an odd film this is in many ways. And it's difficult to comment on some of its oddest features (chiefly the performances of Dullea and Lynley) without giving away aspects of the plot that it's best you don't know when seeing the movie. I guess it's safe to say that I found both of these performances underwhelming but adequate. To be fair, both of them come off better by the end of the film than they do in its first third. Your take on Lynley's character will definitely evolve as the film progresses, which must in some degree be to her credit.
But by far the most compelling reason to see the film is Olivier's rich and understated performance from the period post-Archie Rice but pre-Othello. It takes a while for his character to appear, but once he arrives, he is unquestionably the center of the film, at the true heart of what's good about it. (The last 20 minutes of the film, maligned elsewhere in these IMDB comments, would probably have benefited greatly from a little more of his presence.)
His every moment onscreen is fascinating and worthwhile, and the script gives him some fine moments of verbal eccentricity which he delivers with variety and brilliance -- we leave this film wanting to know even more about his character, because he just seems so interesting beneath the surface.
Also a plus is that occupying nearly every small part in this film is a truly fine British character actor, with the old dotty schoolmistress Miss Ford (Anna Massey, I believe) a standout. But everyone, from the various employees of the little girl's school to Olivier's sidekick to the fellow manning the shipping counter, are fabulously well-played. And then of course, there's Noel Coward....who gives a truly perverse performance in what amounts to only three scenes.
The combination of black & white photography and widescreen, while not all that uncommon, would soon be all but extinct by the time this film was made (at least until our more recent era, when it's made a conspicuous comeback), but it makes for a very effective look and feel to the movie, often dark and noirish, with somes an almost documentary-like grittiness, but always very well-composed and a large part of the film's success. On television, it's nearly impossible to see it in widescreen, and in fact the TV print isn't even pan-and-scan -- it's just stationary and incomplete, so over and over again we hear people talking whom we KNOW are on camera, but they're invisible to us. No attempt was made in the TV transfer to even bother to scan. It's definitely true that the film is less effective without the widescreen component, but it's still watchable, because you can clearly tell what you're NOT seeing, if that makes any sense at all!
One final note: I originally tracked this film down over a decade ago because of the interesting score by composer Paul Glass, totally unknown to me except for this film. Way back when, the soundtrack (on vinyl) for this film was kind of rare, and I had a copy and really loved the music. In the context of the film, the score alternates oddly between working quite well and being inappropriate or irritating. Sometimes (during the scene in the doll hospital for example) you can understand what the logic was behind the musical choice, but it's intrusive and simply not working. The score also adopts the unfortunate "in-joke" of having some variant of the main title melody (which is quite lovely and fitting for the film, featuring recorder, strings, woodwinds and what seems to be a soprano sax to good effect to create the "child's world" motive to open the first 15 minutes of the film) ALWAYS be present as source music. For example, when we see Noel Coward in his apartment, a radio or phonograph is playing some kind of muzak version of the theme. There's another scene in a bar where the main title theme is playing jazzily. This sort of thing rarely works, and it's particularly egregious in this film. (John Williams once lampooned the practice in his score for THE LONG GOODBYE). But a few blunders aside, Glass manages to do a great job balancing the really expressive simplicity of his rather pastoral tune with some really fine dissonant, percussive, atonal cues. The score sounds like nobody else in particular, yet is very distinctive, which I mean as a compliment to the mysterious Mr. Glass.
All in all, an interesting enough effort, with a really well-written screenplay. One can imagine it looked great on paper when it was offered to Olivier, though perhaps the film turned out a little less successfully than might have been hoped for. But it's definitely worth seeing.
I'm not a huge fan of Preminger - many of his films from 1950 forward are pretty bad (e.g. "Saint Joan," "Exodus," "In Harms Way," "Hurry, Sundown") or don't date well (e.g. "Man With The Golden Arm," "Such Good Friends").
But "Bunny Lake Is Missing" is a bright spot in his later work. I first saw this on TV back in the early 70's and then again in a 16mm pan-and-scan print - and enjoyed it. But it wasn't until I saw it in a 35mm widescreen print that I could appreciate Preminger's expert use of the widescreen space, which gave "Bunny Lake" added dimension.
"Bunny Lake" isn't a great thriller, but it's a good one. The story itself doesn't rise above a certain amount of contrivance, but the performances are mostly solid enough to keep you glued to the screen until the suspenseful climax. Best are Olivier, beautifully restrained as the chief inspector, Lynley as the frantic heroine, and Martita Hunt as the eccentric owner of the school where Bunny first goes missing. As Lynley's brother whose feelings for his sister are almost incestuous, Kier Dullea does well walking a tightrope between normal brotherly concern and something darker, but occasionally overdoes his role.
Unfortunately, Preminger can't help but indulge his desire to titillate and shock with the character played by Noel Coward. Watching the playwright/actor caress his face with a leather whip handle (a scene not in the original novel, I believe), is a piece of vulgarity that will produce more adolescent giggles than gasps.
I saw "Bunny Lake Is Missing" for the second time last night at San Francisco's Castro Theatre. The first time was also at the Castro twelve years ago during an Otto Preminger festival. Preminger made a number of better films – "Laura" and "Anatomy of a Murder" come to mind – but I have a special fondness for "Bunny Lake" even though at times it drags and is overly talky.
Among the merits of casting Carol Lynley and Keir Dullea, it can be successfully argued that they look like siblings – often not the case in films – which works very well for this film, as does their ethereal out-of-body quality.
Criticism has been made that the role of Ann Lake was written one dimensionally and therefore offered Lynley little to do but weep and whine; but this may have been Preminger's intention to support that part of the plot that suggests Ann may not have a daughter and that Ann herself may be more than a bit unbalanced.
Dullea is an unusual looking actor who can photograph good looking or simply strange. Preminger used this well early in the film, although he seemed to lose subtlety as the narrative headed towards its denouement.
The film's superior black-and-white widescreen photography is one of its strengths. London locations and interiors are effective and impressive. I especially liked the doll hospital cellar sequence with Lynley holding an oil lamp as she moves about, the high angle shot of the backyard the begins the final sequence, and several sequences when characters pass quickly from one room to another.
The sexual subtext is not as hidden as it would have been in the 50s, but subtler, say, than after 1970; its ambiguity adds to the film's texture without getting in the way.
In fact, 1965 seems a perfect time for this film to have appeared since the cinematic fulcrum was still well placed to balance a filmmaker from older Hollywood who also enjoyed pushing the envelope. A little bit later, color photography would have been mandatory, and the characterizations would have moved into a much more bizarre, psychedelic arena.
Perhaps because of how its strengths and weaknesses combine, the film has a seductive, haunting integrity for me. As the film began with the Saul Bass titles and Paul Glass's score, I felt a pleasurable sensation of awe which I used to feel more often when seeing a movie, and which reoccurred a number of times in "Bunny Lake".
Try to see this film on a large theater screen to experience the full power of the black-and-white widescreen cinematography. Otherwise, view the letterbox DVD on a screen large enough to allow you to see details. There is much to enjoy in "Bunny Lake Is Missing", so don't miss out.