Blu-ray Review: Bunny Lake is Missing - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Director Otto Preminger’s 1965 film Bunny Lake is Missing (based on Merriam Modell’s novel of the same name) is a corker of a suspense film, recently issued as a limited edition (3,000 copies) Blu-ray by Twilight Time. The film is a fast-paced, creepy shocker that maintains an air of unpretentious, lurid fun throughout its 107-minute running time. The story couldn’t be simpler. Ann Lake (Carol Lynley, positively stunning at 23), an American single mother living in England, is horrified to discover her daughter, Bunny, is missing when she tries to pick her up after school. Seeing as it was Bunny’s first day, no one there even seems aware of her attendance, let alone her apparent disappearance.

Bunny lake 1 (380x237).jpgShe and her brother Steve (Keir Dullea, 2001: A Space Odyssey) notify the authorities, but Inspector Newhouse (Laurence Olivier) quickly forms a startling theory: Bunny Lake may not even exist. Ann becomes increasingly hysterical, while Steve becomes more stubbornly defensive of his sister. The investigation introduces a number of colorful characters, all of whom are potential suspects in the mysterious case. The creepiest among them is Ann’s lecherous landlord Horatio (Noël Coward). Apparently intended to rope in younger moviegoers, pop group The Zombies are billed in the opening credits even though their “performance” amounts to a few Ready, Steady, Go! clips briefly glimpsed on a pub TV set.

Bunny Lake cover (213x280).jpgIn a way, Bunny Lake can be read as a deliberately sick-minded, pulpy response to the more psychologically deep thrillers that were coming into vogue in the early part of the ‘60s. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom come to mind. Preminger doesn’t seem particularly interested in getting inside the minds of these characters as they search for the missing girl. But he does seem to take great delight in exploiting their eccentricities, presenting them at face value regardless of how ludicrous their behavior becomes. Giving anything away regarding the third act would truly be dirty pool, but suffice it to say if you’re looking for scary, darkly funny shock value, Bunny Lake is Missing delivers (it would’ve been especially interesting to see how moviegoers reacted to this madness in 1965).

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray offers a high definition transfer of Denys N. Coop’s cinematography that is an absolute treat to watch. The starkly beautiful black-and-white images are razor sharp and the source materials were in impeccable shape. The DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack presents a straightforward sonic experience that never raises any red flags. Paul Glass’ score is available as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 isolated mix as well.

Film historians Lem Dobbs, Nick Redman, and Julie Kirgo contribute a chatty, informative commentary track (the latter also wrote the new essay contained in the booklet). Three trailers are presented, one fairly standard, another hosted by director Preminger, and the last boasting heavy participation from The Zombies. In fact, the Zombies trailer is terrific, especially for fans of the band and British Invasion pop in general. They do a modified version of one of their songs featured in the film, “Just Out of Reach,” that emphasizes audiences to “come on time” to the theater for Bunny Lake. Lifting a page from the Psycho playbook, the film’s marketing campaign included a “no late admissions” policy.

Visit Screen Archives, the official distributor of Twilight Time’s Limited Edition Blu-ray series, for ordering information. Bunny Lake is Missing is exactly the type of cult classic that usually sells out pretty quickly, so those interested will surely want to act fast.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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