In 1988, I watched a riveting European thriller, a Dutch/French co-production called ‘Spoorloss’. The title was changed to ‘The Vanishing’, for British audiences. I hardly recognised anyone in the film, and of course the subtitles for both languages didn’t concern me in the least. It was made by the Dutch director George Sluizer, also someone I wasn’t very familiar with.
The story is simple. A Dutch couple are on holiday in France. It is obvious that they are very much in love. They stop at a service station to buy petrol, and the woman goes into the shop. She doesn’t return to her husband (Rex), or the car, and he begins to search for her frantically. The Police are called, and a general search is ordered, but no trace is found, and he has no option but to return to Holland.
Three years later, and Rex is till searching for her, but now beginning to lose hope. He has a new girlfriend, and she helps him, as he has received anonymous postcards suggesting if he returns to France, he can discover what happened to his wife. He returns to the area, where he is approached by a man who tells him he is the kidnapper, and he offers to tell the truth about what happened, if Rex accompanies him somewhere. With no plot spoilers, I will not ruin what is a truly riveting ending. Suffice to say it is a wonderful film, and I recommend it to everyone.
In 1993, I read that the film was being remade in Hollywood, by the same director. The cast of A-list stars was led by Jeff Bridges, along with Keifer Sutherland, Sandra Bullock, and Nancy Travis. How bad could it be? I thought. Great cast, same director, same story, and US locations. I didn’t bother to go to the cinema, instead buying the film on VHS. That answered my question.
Very bad indeed.
Everything was overblown. The couple were played by Sutherland and Bullock, and didn’t seem to fit. The bad guy was played by Jeff Bridges, with his ‘How to be a villain’ book open on page one. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they then went and CHANGED THE ENDING, rendering everything that had gone before into a complete waste of time and talent. The critics were not happy, and neither was I.