Bunny Lake Is Missing

Ann in a toy hospital surrounded by dolls

Almost everyone is a sexual pervert in 1965’s Bunny Lake Is Missing, a heady and not entirely coherent psychological thriller with melodramatic tendencies and swivelling eyes to match. Directed by Otto Preminger, a man with a love of the lurid, and with American stars in the lead, it was shot in the UK, away from the chokehold of American puritanism. And what a collection of weirdos Preminger puts on screen as he tells the story of the Lakes, a couple whose daughter disappears on her first day at a sweet and twee school in London’s well heeled Hampstead. At any rate Preminger lets us believe they are a couple, man and wife, until … Read more

Q Planes

Pilot Tony McVane in a plane talking to journalist Kay Hammond

Screw your eyes up a bit and don’t ask too many questions and you can just about see the outline of the James Bond franchise in 1939’s Q Planes, a breezy mix of spycraft, flirtatiousness, tech and eccentricity, all served up with the sort of crisp British diction you’d expect from a film made mostly in Denham Studios, home of Things to Come, Brief Encounter and Blithe Spirit. Another endpoint is the 1960s spytastic TV series The Avengers. Patrick Macnee admitted that he borrowed much of the character of mysterious brolly-carrying, hat-wearing spy Major John Steed from Ralph Richardson’s portrayal of mysterious brolly-carrying hat-wearing spy Major Charles Hammond. Hammond is introduced brilliantly in … Read more


Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine

Doubles and doubling feature a lot in Sleuth, the cockeyed comedy thriller from 1972 written by Anthony Shaffer, the identical twin of brother and fellow writer Peter Shaffer. Anthony also wrote Frenzy, for Alfred Hitchcock and The Wicker Man. Peter wrote Amadeus, Equus and Royal Hunt of the Sun, so no slouch either. They also for a while wrote detective novels together – as Peter Antony. Journalists would often ask the Shaffers whether there was rivalry between them. There was. It featured in Peter’s work (Amadeus is driven by it) and even more obviously in Anthony’s Sleuth, the story of an older man inviting his wife’s younger lover to his home to humiliate … Read more

Henry V

Laurence Olivier as Henry V

Laurence Olivier didn’t want to direct Henry V. He was nervous about taking it on, what with having no actual directing experience and this being a film hoping to raise British morale during the Second World War (it was part financed by the government). Olivier asked William Wyler, his Wuthering Heights director, to take it on. Wyler declined, and so, later, did Carol Reed. Both told him the same thing – if it’s Shakespeare then it’s got to be you. Oliver screwed up his courage to the sticking place (to borrow a line from Macbeth) and got to work. The result is a magnificent hybrid of the theatrical and the cinematic, with the longest … Read more