In 1938, Alfred Hitchcock (later, settling in Hollywood, to become widely known for classics like Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rear Window and Psycho) put together a “comic thriller,” called, The Lady Vanishes. Very much in the throes of anxiety about the rise of fascism, it features a spy in the form of a cute old British lady, being waylaid by a sinister Germanic doctor and his associates, including a black leather-coated Italian circus impresario and a woman dressed as a nun.
Most of this tug-of-war between the kidnappers and a staunch young British couple takes place on a train headed for the as yet safe haven of France. In the dining car, where so much of the tension and amusing eccentricity occurs, there are two travel posters by Italian Fascist-era graphics star, Gino Boccasile. The intrigue, alienation and bemusing oddness in these works feed into the adventure, helping the film convey an indelible impression of a difficult, thrilling and now quaint-seeming moment of history.
Here are the heroes, with one of those Boccasiles peering over their shoulder.
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