For Reel

Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
February 17, 2012, 6:02 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Otto Preminger

The ad campaign that accompanied Otto Preminger’s delirious mystery thriller, Bunny Lake Is Missing, emphasized that patrons would be denied admission into the theater once the opening credits rolled, a tactic that Psycho had made famous in 1960. While over-looked today – perhaps due to its immediate kin in the psychodrama genre (in addition to Hitchcock’s iconic effort, Peeping Tom and Repulsion were also landmark thrillers of the time) – it offers far more than what the shallow marketing had promised movie-goers in 1965. Impeccably photographed in black and white Cinemascope by Denys Coop (who started his career as a camera operator on films such as The Fallen Idol and The Third Man), the picture’s deviant world is singularly eccentric, with such inventions as an eerie repair shop referred to as a “Doll Hospital”, a woman who records children’s nightmares, and a sadomasochist with a whip fetish played by none other than Noel Coward. Carol Lynley and Keir Dullea star as American siblings new to London, who early on discover that Lynley’s daughter is missing. A police superintendent played by Laurence Olivier leads the investigation, and he soon questions whether the daughter, Bunny, ever existed in the first place. Preminger wisely plays up an incestuous angle between the brother and sister subliminally – before the characters are properly introduced as being related, their proximity on screen and the way that Dullea reassures Lynley makes one wrongfully identify them as husband and wife. While the radical change of tone that accompanies the final twist is unfortunate, the picture’s third act provides a chilling chase sequence quite unlike any other. Beyond its pleasures as a mystery thriller, Preminger’s clear ambition was to challenge the limiting parameters of what a family was expected to be – Lynley, as a single mother, is presumed to be delusional by the conservative authorities.

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