Bunny Lake is Missing: “Otto Preminger Presents!”

[Screenshot]This is apparently a cult classic, which was news to me. I thoguht it was a completely obscure film. It was brought to my attention by a peculiar advertising jingle the Zombies did for it (I’m a big Zombies fan; I own the box set with all their music, whcih is why I’ve heard this oddity). So pretty much all I knew was that it was directed by Otto Preminger (I like Otto Preminger), featured Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, and Keir Dullea (I like Olivier and Dullea; Lynley’s name was unfamiliar to me), and had footage of the Zombies singing (I like the Zombies). So even if it wasn’t very good, it sounded worth a watch.

So how good is it? It’s not bad, but neither does it rise to the standard of Preminger’s stronger films. The central plot device was, perhaps, overused by the time it was released, and certainly overdone by now. For my part, this device worked best in The Lady Vanishes and nothing since has quite done as well. Olivier does a creditable job, and Lynley is effective but a bit colorless. The two actors whose performances most struck me were Keir Dullea and Noel Coward; Coward is ridiculously over-the-top, but it’s a good over-the-top. Dullea’s performance is interesting but fatally marred. For most of the film he reminded me, perhaps inexplicably, of Jimmy Stewart. He’s got the right sort of eagerness and anxiety. Then his character abruptly changed and pretty much everything that happened after that point in the story made no sense and went on entirely too long. The transition needed to be more compelled, more believable, and more interesting. His character plays into a kind of stupid cliché in the end, and I found that part of the film weak. Somehow all these “is the protagonist crazy or not?” films get a lot weaker once that question is answered. It was a problem with The Lady Vanishes, too.

And as for the Zombies, they’re hardly in the film. But I guess it was the only film they were ever in, so they got pretty excited about it. And they got fairly high billing.

Odd fact: there are reports of an upcoming remake of Bunny Lake. Doesn’t Hollywood have any new ideas? I’m assuming this is meant to ride the same wave (whatever that is) as Flightplan, but can’t they come up with anything better to follow up a rip-off of an old movie with than a remake of the same old movie?

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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