Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Bunny Lake is Missing



UK (UK-US) 1965 : Otto PREMINGER : 107 mins

An American brother (Keir Dullea) and sister (Carol Lynley) have only just moved to London when the sisters little girl vanishes on first day at school. As the police (Laurence Olivier) investigate, they discover scant evidence of the childs existence could she in fact be merely a figment of her mothers imagination? Or is there a more sinister explanation?

Loosely adapted by John and Penelope Mortimer from Evelyn Pipers novel, Bunny Lake is contrived and often laughable as a psychological thriller a major flaw is that, as in Rosemarys Baby (which the is-she-imagining-it-all angle prefigures) one of the characters is too obviously evil/unhinged from the start.

Despite this, the film is almost always watchable and sometimes even enormously enjoyable – as a camp black-comedy showcase for excellent, offbeat character-turns from Olivier, Noel Coward, Martita Hunt and Anna Massey. Even the smallest roles feature the likes of Adrienne Corri, Finlay Currie, Clive Revill, Megs Jenkins and the non-pareil Richard Wattis, a gallery of talent which easily compensates for the relatively colourless juvenile leads. Until, that is, we reach the overextended two-hander climax which cruelly exposes the limitations of youth, and also of the script.

Premingers atmospheric wide-screen black-and-white direction makes the most of the upscale Hampstead settings and oddball characters, and while he gets an invaluable leg-up from Saul Basss typically inspired opening titles, he’s done no favours at all by Paul Glasss maddeningly over-emphatic orchestral score.

As a breather from the muzak, top pop combo The Zombies turn up on a pub TV showing Ready Steady Go, then later we hear their tunes blaring out of a transistor radio. Several Zombies cuts are played – perhaps the result of some deal between Preminger and their record company so how bizarre it is that these dont include the bands most famous track, the all-too-appropriate 1964 smash Shes Not There!

8th December, 2003
(seen 7th December : CineSide, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

by Neil Young