Bunny Lake is Missing
Written by John and Penelope Mortimer
Directed by Otto Preminger
Based on the novel by Evelyn Piper
Ann Lake and her four-year-old daughter Bunny (Bunny Lake? With a name like that, she's destined to grow into a stripper or a staple-naveled centerfold) have recently moved to England, American transplants come to live with Ann's journalist brother Steven. It's Bunny's first day at school, and Ann is running late for an appointment, so she hurriedly leaves her daughter in the care of the school cook and shoves off.
Later that day, when Ann arrives at the school to pick up her daughter, she's nowhere to be found. Not only that, but there's not a soul there who will even admit to ever having seen her. The police are called in, lead by the dryly witty Mr. Newhouse, and in the course of their investigation uncover that not only has Bunny Lake gone missing, but so have all of her belongings. Aside from the word of Steven and Anne, there's not a shred of evidence to suggest that Bunny even exists.
In fact, we eventually come to realize, we're in the same boat as the elementary school's employees: We've never seen the girl, either.
So what's going on here? Was Bunny kidnapped, and if so, by who? Is Bunny merely a figment of Ann's imagination, and if so, why is Steven playing along? Why does the drunken deviant landlord insist on carrying around a chihuahua as if he were a famous-for-being-famous L.A. starlet with a sex tape freely available on the internet? And perhaps most importantly, what kind of brother-sister relationship allows for Ann to sit around talking to Steven while he soaks naked in the bathtub!?
For the answers (at least to the first couple questions), you'll have to watch this suspenseful little ditty through to the end.
From the creative opening credits to the bizarre and unbalanced finale, this film was expertly directed and features top notch performances from all the leads, especially Laurence Olivier, who was really at the heart of the whole movie. There were certain moments throughout that were reminiscent of Hitchcock, and if shown out of context could easily be confused with scenes from one of his films.
The heavy use of music from the Zombies was a bit of an odd choice, I thought--it would fit quite nicely in a 'mod' movie, but it just seemed wildly out of place here. I have heard complaints about a few superfluous characters within the story, but their appearances have merit as Red Herrings, if nothing else. Conversely, the complaints that the movie was a bit slow at times do have some merit (a number of scenes could have been cropped), but it was a deliberate pacing that chugged along to a satisfying (if somewhat mind-warping) conclusion--even if there does happen to be a cliche or two along the way.
Overall, a fine little psychological thriller that has never received the audience that it deserves. Similar plot elements were used many years later in 2004's The Forgotten and 2005's Flightplan. A remake, once rumored to star Reese Witherspoon, has been discussed for years. Don't put yourself through that misery...just watch the original, okay?
Black & White