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BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (director: Otto Preminger; screenwriters: based on the novel by Evelyn Piper/John & Penelope Mortimer; cinematographer: Denys N. Coop; editor: Peter Thornton; music: Paul Glass; cast: Carol Lynley (Annie Lake), Keir Dullea (Stephen Lake), Laurence Olivier (Inspector Newmarque), Noel Coward (Horatio Wilson), Clive Revill (Sgt. Andrews), Martita Hunt (Aida Ford), Anna Massey (Elvira Smollett, head mistress), Lucie Mannheim (The Cook), SukyAppleby (Bunny Lake), Adrienne Corri (Dorothy), Megs Jenkins (Sister), Damaris Hayman (Teacher,Daphne); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Otto Preminger; Columbia; 1965-UK)
“Somehow the unconvincing story is engrossing, as the marvelous supporting cast put it over… .”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Based on the 1957 mystery novel by Marryam Modell, who uses the pseudonym Evelyn Piper. It’s written by John & Penelope Mortimer, who turns it into kitsch black-comedy. Egotistical bully Otto Preminger (“Laura”/”Where the Sidewalk Ends”/”Daisy Kenyon”) took six weeks in London to direct this vexing psychological thriller. It was as if he were working on a Freudian treatise on sanity rather than a routine missing child police case. Preminger keeps it surprising, with plenty of the Sixties atmospheric shots (like the popular Brit pop group the Zombies doing a few musical numbers from a pub TV), entertaining, and nightmarish. Somehow the unconvincing story is engrossing, as the marvelous supporting cast put it over led by Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward (who nearly steals the film in a cameo as an elderly, drunk, queer masochist landlord), Martita Hunt (as the batty retired school co-founder studying childhood nightmares) and Anna Massey (as the snippy and nervous headmistress). The American stars Carol Lynley and Keir Dullea are insufferable in their overwrought performances.

Single neurotic American mother Ann Lake (Carol Lynley) goes into near hysterics at finding out her four-year-old daughter Bunny Lake is missing when picking her up from her first day in an English school. No one, including her teacher and the headmistress ever saw her. With Ann’s uppity but mentally unstable journalist big brother Stephen (Keir Dullea) soon at her side, the wise man analytical Superintendent Newhouse (Laurence Olivier) attempts to retrace the child’s steps and when nothing checks out (there’s no possessions of the child’s in the Lake’s upscale Hampstead flat and the alleged father of the baby is a married man who denies he sired a child) he begins to suspect that perhaps Bunny never really existed and is about to end the case when Ann discovers a doll repair claim ticket for her daughter in her possession.

REVIEWED ON 12/27/2007 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”