April 7, 2008

Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
Grade: 56/100

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Carol Lynley, Laurence Olivier, Keir Dullea

What it's about. This cult classic takes on elements of horror and suspense in the final reel. Mostly, though, it is a mystery. Beautiful Carol Lynley is an American recently moved to London. She's an unwed mother who lives with her intense and over-protective brother, Keir Dullea.

Lynley's four-year-old daughter Bunny is sent to daycare, then disappears. Lynley and Dullea begin an increasingly frantic search for Bunny. They turn to the London police, where Laurence Olivier is the disillusioned but thorough superintendent.

How others will see it. Carol Lynley is even hotter and more vulnerable than she is in her best known movie, The Poseidon Adventure. Since this comely blonde is on screen much of the time, there's enough eye candy to satisfy those so inclined.

Another item of interest is the only movie appearance of The Zombies, a quality British Invasion band that scored three major American hits, "Tell Her No," "She's Not There," and "Time of the Season." Alas, The Zombies were relegated to a television in a bar. Perhaps director Otto Preminger preferred jazz music.

Bunny Lake Is Missing also has three interesting supporting roles. Noel Coward camps it up as an egocentric and eccentric pervert and drunk who hits on the decidedly disinterested Lynley. Finlay Currie is a droll elderly man who repairs dolls. Martita Hunt is a reclusive author obsessed with childrens' nightmares. Of course, the big name here is Laurence Olivier, who successfully imitates Richard Burton.

How I felt about it. Did Bunny Lake ever exist? This question, reminiscent of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1939), soon overwhelms the search for Bunny. If Bunny Lake doesn't exist, this means that her "mother" is delusional. But if so, then what is her brother's motive in supporting her story?

Like most mysteries, Bunny Lake Is Missing has unexpected twists and red herring suspects. Proper discussion of these require spoilers. Avert your eyes now if such things are still important to you, but you should know that a movie is not a basketball game. The score is unimportant relative to the art.

It is easy to believe that Keir Dullea secrets an incestuous desire for his earnest but adorable grown sister. It is difficult to believe that he would attempt to kill the daughter so that he could have Lynley to himself. It is even less conceivable that he would insist upon the child's existence to the police. Or that he would keep the child alive in the trunk of a car. Or that he would appear to be sane throughout until he has the chance to burn Bunny's things. At which time he is as nutty as a fruitcake.

So, we have an interesting movie with a bogus ending. The ending doesn't ruin the film, but it certainly doesn't help it. Imdb.com states the film is to be remade in 2009. Hopefully, this version will give the brother a more credible character change.