DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Bunny Lake Is Missing

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Jan 24, 2005.

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  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    [​IMG]
    Bunny Lake Is Missing[​IMG]

    US Theatrical Release: October 3, 1965 (Columbia - TriStar)
    US DVD Release: January 25, 2005
    Running Time: 1:47:05 (12 chapter stops)
    Rating: None
    Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic (black & white)
    Audio: English DD1.0
    Subtitles: English, French
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English
    Menus: Not animated.
    Packaging: Standard keepcase; no insert.
    MSRP: $19.94

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3.5/5

    Creepy characters inhabit a creepy London in this bizarre suspense flick directed by Otto Preminger. Carol Lynley heads the cast as Ann Lake, a young American single mother who has just moved to London with her 4-year-old daughter, Bunny. Ann tends to be a bit short with people, possibly leading viewers to question her mental stability right from the start. She is, fortunately, protected by her adoring but slightly hotheaded brother Steven (Keir Dullea), a local journalist.

    When Ann arrives at Bunny’s school to pick her up, there is no sign of Bunny. As it is her first day, nobody really knows who she is, and no one remembers seeing her. The trail runs cold with the eccentric old Miss Ford (Martita Hunt), the former co-headmistress of the school, and the police are called in.

    The fuzz hit the scene in the person of Superintendent Newhouse, coldly portrayed by Laurence Olivier. Newhouse tries to be personable, but his interactions often wind up feeling stiff and awkward. He and his men initiate the police procedural portion of the program, tracing Ann’s movements over the course of the day and asking all sorts of questions.

    Newhouse soon realizes that the answers to his questions don’t add up. Nobody besides Ann or Steven can remember ever having seen Bunny. What’s more, the girl’s possessions, including her passport, have all disappeared from their home. There is no evidence, aside from the word of Ann and Steven, that Bunny ever really existed!

    There are no comfortable characters in this film. The closest is perhaps played by Noel Coward, who clearly has fun with his role as elderly pervert Horatio Wilson. His kookiness brings a touch of comic relief to the otherwise dark story. But while he’s comfortable with himself, he has the opposite effect on everyone around him. His lecherous flirting and other, more deviant hobbies make him a prime suspect in the mystery. I’d venture a guess that in 1965, Miss Ford’s strongly implied homosexuality made her a suspect as well. While Ann may appear unbalanced enough to have made Bunny up, there are so many suspicious individuals surrounding her that it’s hard to dismiss the possibility that Bunny’s bizarre disappearance is due to nefarious goings-on. The film does a nice job of leading the viewer in a number of directions at once, not tipping its hand until it’s ready.

    The strange nature of Bunny Lake Is Missing may not appeal to everyone, and it does have some pacing issues. There are a few sequences, especially towards the end, that drag on a bit longer than they should, but for the most part, it moves along briskly. It’s an unusual film, examining a number of characters who are all off-kilter in their own ways. Lynley’s performance as Ann is a little flat, but the rest of the cast carry the story well. Those who are in the mood for something off the beaten path, and who are not easily creeped out, should have a good time with it.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3/5

    The smooth widescreen image is generally pretty good. It’s not very grainy, and compression artifacts are not noticeable. A fair amount of print damage is present, which varies throughout the film – some scenes are in better shape than others, but for the most part, it’s in OK shape. My one real quibble with the picture is that the edge enhancement sometimes stands out like a sore thumb in high-contrast parts of scenes. Some aliasing is clearly visible on edge-enhanced diagonals.


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5

    The Dolby Digital mono mix is just about right. Dialogue, music and effects are all nicely balanced. There are some very jarring ADR inserts, however. They make for some abrupt mid-sentence amplitude changes that mar an otherwise fine soundtrack.


    THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Extra features are missing! Sorry, I had to say that. [​IMG] A few trailers are included.

    Previews:

    Three trailers are included. They cannot be played individually; there is only a Play Previews button on the main menu, which plays all three in order (the chapter skip button will skip to the next one). The Forgotten and The Grudge are anamorphic and have DD5.1 audio, while Bonjour Tristesse is non-anamorphic widescreen and has DD1.0 audio. When the disc is first loaded, the trailer for The Forgotten plays automatically. It may be skipped.
    • The Forgotten (2:32)
    • The Grudge (1:27)
    • Bonjour Tristesse (1:36)
    SUMMING IT ALL UP

    The Way I Feel About It: 3.5/5
    The Way I See It: 3/5
    The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5
    The Swag: 0.5/5


    Some may compare Bunny Lake Is Missing to the recent thriller The Forgotten, in which another young mother discovers that all evidence of her child’s existence seems to have disappeared, but the similarities end there. Bunny Lake, while not brilliant, is clever and gradually leads the viewer through a string of clues and colorful characters, while The Forgotten plays like a chase scene through a failed X-Files script. Bunny Lake’s audio and video quality are decent but unspectacular, and there isn’t really any added value in terms of extra features. The film, while not without its flaws, is definitely worth a look for fans of the offbeat, but is perhaps a bit too not-for-everyone to garner a recommended label.
     
  2. William Miller

    William Miller Stunt Coordinator

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    This is an outstanding transfer. The picture is clear, bright and sharp and my eyes do not see any annoying artifacts. The sound is very superb. Columbia has done a fine job on this one. This movie has always looked so dark and dreary and now it's looks very vibrant and alive. A 100% improvement.

    But I have a question. The opening Columbia logo and the entire screen credits are letterboxed but not anamorphic. Then, when the credits end, the anamorphic picture kicks in and the rest of the movie is fine. When TCM had it's letterbox premiere of this movie last year, the opening logo and the credits were the same size as the rest of the movie. And I can also say that in the theaters, the image was all the same size because I had the opportunity of seeing this many times in 1965 as I was killing time between classes at college and I always hung out in the nearby theater. Is this an error on Columbia's part? Or have they discovered some long lost artistic decision that someone might have suggested? Does anyone know about this?

    This movie has become a cult favorite over the years and I think that everyone should see it. It's very outre with a strong cast (with Carol Lynley delivering a great performance, certainly the best of her career), a literate script, very kinky overtones, good mystery and atmosphere. You may not love it the first time but then watch it again and you will be hooked as that's what happened to me.
     
  3. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    I had the same question about the opening and wondered how it would play in a theater with the hand ripping open the credits at the end and becoming the full Panavision image. It is an amazing film--the lighting,the music, the locations, the supporting cast, and the extras. It took me two-thirds of the way through the film to "get" the deliberate casting of the bland Lynley (who has an amazing resemblance to Dullea). As a meditation on identity, it would make a wonderful double-bill with Powell's PEEPING TOM.
     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    How did this one manage to get released without me know about it! I must buy! Excellent film.
     
  5. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I can confirm this main titles weirdness. Why wasn't this mentioned in this review is what I'd like to know? Is the reviewer not watching on a widescreen TV? It's so strange - as soon as Preminger's credit is done it goes anamorphic. Any ideas?
     
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    To be precise: The opening credits, like the entire feature, are indeed "anamorphic" in the sense that the video has been enhanced for 16:9, will play back in the correct proportions on a widescreen TV, and will be wrongly proportioned on a 4:3 screen without downconversion. However, the opening credits have been severely "windowboxed" so that the frame is much smaller than the rest of the feature, although it is still correctly proportioned.

    I assume this was done so that none of the Saul Bass title sequence would be obscured by the overscan found on most consumer TVs. I agree that they overdid it on the windowboxing -- the proportions didn't need to be shrunk so substantially -- but I'm not troubled by it.

    M.
     
  7. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I completely understand what they did. It's a lot more than "windowboxing". If they'd just windowboxed the sides of the image I'd understand. But this is basically a 4x3 letterboxed image in a 16x9 transfer. It's very peculiar and makes not a jot of sense.
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I don't disagree that it's a bizarre way to handle the titles. However, the descriptions offered above were inaccurate.

    M.
     
  9. Randy_M

    Randy_M Supporting Actor

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    Just watched this (I did a blind buy, cuz I love the Zombies), and found it to be terrific. The thing I liked the most is that the script did not telegraph the resolution at all. Quite well done, I thought.

    And the transfer looked awfully good on my RPTV.
     
  10. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I'm very happy with the transfer, too. There is nothing like a good black-and-white scope transfer. The movie, which I don't think is brilliant, has always been a top guilty pleasure.
     
  11. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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  12. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Day the Earth Caught Fire - one of my favorite DVDs. Other terrific black-and-white scope transfers (anamorphic, of course: In Harm's Way, Jacques Demy's Lola, A Patch of Blue, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, In Cold Blood, One, Two, Three - I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting.
     
  13. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    I hadn't seen the film before, and simply thought that that's how they were intended to look. I had no reason to believe otherwise. As Michael said, it's not that they're not anamorphic; they're simply windowboxed to a smaller size. (If they weren't anamorphic, then they would appear warped, not just smaller.)

    Perhaps someone who saw this in the theater way back when can confirm how they're supposed to look.
     
  14. Jay Gregory

    Jay Gregory Stunt Coordinator

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    I watched this movie letterboxed for the first time during the TCM Saul Bass tribute. I thought it extremely perverse that the opening credits were so severely windowboxed during a presentation purporting to celebrate the work of the opening credits designer.

    While I haven't seen the new DVD, the descriptions here sound like how the TCM presentation looked on my 4x3 television.
     
  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I recorded the TCM broadcast, and the titles are handled on that version just as they are on the DVD. I suspect the same master was used for both versions.

    M.
     
  16. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I believe I mentioned I'd seen it in the theater, but maybe I didn't. They certainly were not windowboxed in the theater, if this is what you're calling windowboxed. To my eyes, and as I've already said, it looks like a 4x3 frame in a 16x9 transfer, and then it goes 16x9 just after Mr. Preminger's credit. It was exactly the same on TCM. Very strange, but it's not the way it was in the theater on its release.
     
  17. William Miller

    William Miller Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I guess I was incorrect in my statement about the TCM showing. I play my tapes on a smaller non-widescreen TV and I didn't realize what it actually looked like. I guess I was so delirious of finally seeing this letterboxed that my brain was not acting properly.

    But I will stick with my statement that it was not that way in the theaters.

    Here's an interesting bit of trivia about Bunny Lake that I just discovered and it never dawned on me through all these years even though I love this movie and collected Rock music for many years and have been in the record business for even more years. That fact concerns The Zombies, the British rock group who has 3 songs featured in the movie. Their appearance is very strange because these songs or their appearance has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the movie and I guess that Otto was just looking for another way to raise interest in the movie. But what is funny is that the biggest hit The Zombies ever had was in 1964 and that hit was called "She's Not There". But that is not one of the 3 songs in the movie. Wouldn't that have been a great song to be included because of the plot of the movie?
     
  18. Randy_M

    Randy_M Supporting Actor

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    William,

    That would have been appropriate. I believe that two of the songs "Just Out of Reach" and "Remember You" premiered in the movie, so I was wondering if they were perhaps comissioned for it...

    By the way The Zombies are re-formed and touring (just saw them 2 months ago) with the two main original guys, Colin Blunstone (vocals) and Rod Argent (keyboards, vocals); they sound amazingly like they did 40 years ago.
     
  19. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    'The Zombies' stick out like a sore thumb though don't they? It's as jarring as the 'Fine Young Cannibals' appearance in Tin Men.

    Titles bizarreness aside, a beautiful, film-like transfer of a film that's very nearly excellent.
     
  20. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Just watched my copy last night... amazing. An absolutely gorgeous transfer.

    Great job, Columbia.
     

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