Lost in London – Rediscovering ‘Bunny Lake is Missing’ (UK/US 1965 – 107 mins).

Posted in Rediscover by - February 18, 2014
Lost in London – Rediscovering ‘Bunny Lake is Missing’ (UK/US 1965 – 107 mins).

Nicely adapted by John and Penelope Mortimer, from Evelyn Piper’s 1957 novel, London based psychological thriller ‘Bunny Lake Is Missing’, is a gripping British mystery, featuring top grade stars working with a top notch script.

Young, single mother Ann Lake waits to collect her newly enrolled daughter from pre-school, only to find that the child is not there, and nobody at the school claims to have ever seen the child. The police start to believe that four year old Felicia ‘Bunny’ Lake may be a figment of Ann’s troubled mind, after all, as a child herself; she once had an imaginary playmate called ‘Bunny’. Both the authorities and the viewer begin to question whether Bunny actually exists.

After early roles in mostly forgettable fluff, 23 year old Carol Lynley gives what is easily her finest performance as the distraught young mum. Looking worried and harassed throughout, she convincingly conveys every mother’s nightmare. Added to the fact that Ann is only recently from America, and a stranger in the capital, Lynley’s character shows a desperate feeling of isolation. Carol would have another strong role four years later, albeit in a pretty dire potboiler; ‘Once You Kiss a Stranger…’ as a psychotic siren, in a forgettable ‘Strangers on a Train’ style yarn. Of course, Carol’s biggest hit would remain the 1972 disaster favourite; ‘The Poseidon Adventure’.

Stage and screen legend, Laurence Olivier, had one of his best later roles here, as the intelligent, philosophy spouting Superintendent Newhouse. Olivier would not be this good again until his tour-de-force performance in 1972’s ‘Sleuth’, with Michael Caine. Cult actor Kier Dullea plays Lynley’s rather unlikable brother, Steven, a confrontational young man, shouting threats and barking orders at the police, berating their incompetence. Dullea had earlier starred in the excellent emotional drama ‘David and Lisa’ (’62), and would later star in Kubrick’s seminal ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (’68).

The supporting cast of British talent is excellent, with seasoned theatre pros such as Anna Massey, Martita Hunt and Finlay Currie, all excelling in small but pivotal roles. Noel Coward plays the films most bizarre character, a creepy, bondage-loving landlord. Also spotted are the prolific Richard Wattis and the vastly under-rated Clive Revill, as the ever watchful Sergeant Andrews. Popular British rock band ‘The Zombies’ also appear, though only on a television screen in a seedy looking pub, singing the appropriately titled songs; “Remember You” and “Just Out Of Reach”

Director Otto Preminger had great early success with his forties noirs, including the superior thriller ‘Laura’. In the 1950’s, Preminger would often tackle then-controversial themes in his movies, such as sex in the 1953 William Holden drama ‘The Moon is Blue’, drug-taking in ‘The Man with the Golden Arm (’55), and rape in the courtroom drama ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ (’59). A notorious tyrant, Preminger also had a memorable acting role in Billy Wilder’s excellent P.O.W drama ‘Stalag 17’ (’53), as the camp Commandant.

Denys N. Coop’s superb cinematography of Stark close-ups and quick edits, adds to the sense of dread. With a typically cryptic title sequence by the famed Saul Bass, and a childlike yet sometimes unnerving musical score by Paul Glass, ‘Bunny Lake is Missing’ is a wonderfully engrossing mystery. If I have a negative though, it’s that I did find that the eventual payoff did not quite live up to the rest of the movie’s suspense.

Minor gripe aside, ‘Bunny Lake Is Missing’ is more than just a missing persons thriller, it’s an engrossing sleeper, full of twists and tense moments, and keeps you guessing right to the end. With a fantastic script, and full of peculiar characters, this haunting movie remains must-see viewing for fans of obscure, twisty ‘missing person’ thrillers.

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