THE VANISHING. (1993) DIRECTED BY GEORGE SLUIZER. BASED ON THE NOVELLA, THE GOLDEN EGG (HET GOUDEN EI) BY TIM KRABBE AND ON THE 1988 DUTCH FILM, THE VANISHING, OR SPOORLOOS (WITHOUT A TRACE).
STARRING KIEFER SUTHERLAND, SANDRA BULLOCK, JEFF BRIDGES, NANCY TRAVIS AND PARK OVERALL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’ve always loved this strange, disturbing film, and it’s only today, as I’m researching it, that I’m finding out that, A, it’s a re-make of a much more popular 1988 film of the same name, and, B, it’s considered to be one of the worst re-makes ever made.
Well, that sure told me, didn’t it? George Sluizer, a Dutch-Jewish film-maker, now deceased, made both films, although why he made the second one only five years after the original, I’m not sure, unless it was to have both the Dutch and English versions out there. Elementary, my dear Watson…
I’ll concentrate on the later version here, as it’s the only one I’ve seen. Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock play attractive young American couple, Jeff and Diane (A little ditty, ‘bout Jeff and Diane, two ‘Merican kids doing the best they can…!). Okay, yes, I know that it’s meant to be a song ‘bout Jack and Diane, and not Jeff and Diane, I just had a brief moment of levity, is all. So sue me, John Cougar Mellencamp, lol.
Anyway, Jeff and Diane are really annoying together. Jeff is a bit of an insensitive prick, and Diane the kind of woman who has a panic attack if Jeff leaves her alone for two minutes to go to the bathroom.
She’s clingy and emotionally controlling, making Jeff give her endless promises and reassurances that he’ll never leave her. Well, of course we know men just love that kind of thing. They can’t get enough of extreme neediness in a bird. How Jeff doesn’t leave her ass in the tunnel where their car breaks down is some kind of miracle.
Jeff and Diane are on their way back home from a less-than-successful driving holiday when Diane vanishes into thin air after paying a quick visit to a gas station convenience store. For three long years, Jeff obsesses about the disappearance night and day, posting fliers featuring Diane’s mugshot all over the place and appearing on television and talk radio shows.
He even acquires a new girlfriend, Rita the waitress (freshen your drink, sugar…?), she of the fabulous curly hair-do and the determination to make Jeff, a complete stranger who wanders randomly into the diner where she works, into the Perfect Boyfriend for herself.
Perfect in every way, except, of course, for the all-consuming obsession with his missing girlfriend. But there’s no underestimating the ruthlessness of a diner waitress in the matter of love. She’s onto a good thing here, is Rita.
Living with would-be writer Jeff beats the hell out of serving hash browns and eggs over-easy to auld lads who think her body comes with the price of the check. (Pandering by using ‘Merican spelling.) Rita won’t give up on Jeff. But will Jeff give up on Diane? Not bloody likely.
I don’t even think that it’s a matter of Jeff’s being in love with Diane any more, like poor Nancy fears. After all, he’s now got Nancy to tickle his fancy, innit? I honestly think it’s more the case that his male pride is hurt by having had his girlfriend swiped from him, right out from under his nose, and now he just wants to find out for certain what happened to Diane.
He needs to know. He needs closure. He needs the answer to the question, what happened to her, almost as much as he needs air to breathe, and not even the feisty Nancy can change his stubborn mind. Enter the villain of the piece, Jeff Bridges as the weird and shambling University chemistry professor, Barney Cousins…
This is the only film of Jeff Bridges’ in which I don’t fancy him. I loved him in films like JAGGED EDGE and THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. Here, he has a horribly unflattering hairstyle and a funny accent, which I’ve only just worked out is probably meant to be Dutch, given the earlier version of the film and the Dutch director George Sluizer.
Barney is creepy. The scenes where he’s in his car, rehearsing how to abduct a defenceless female, would certainly give you the willies. Barney is super-intellectual and detached and curious about things. You could imagine him staring impassively, with scientific objectivity and no compassion, at an animal or a human being in pain or distress.
Jeff, on the other hand, is impetuous, hot-headed and inclined to punch first, ask questions later. Who will win in their battle of wits? Will intellect win out over stubbornness and tenacity, or will a bunch of fives annihilate intellect every time…? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out, folks.
I love the scenes where the feisty Nancy squares up to the evil Barney, and also the fact that her co-waitress and partner-in-crime is played by Park Overall, who once co-starred in a great old ‘Eighties sitcom called EMPTY NEST with Dinah Manoff, Kristy McNichol and David Leisure. She herself portrayed a nurse called Laverne. Her heavy Southern accent and no-nonsense personality is kind of her trademark.
Enjoy the movie anyway, folks, whichever version you see. And steer clear of anyone called Barney, as they are clearly bonkers. Exceptions include the big purple dinosaur on kiddies’ TV, the character from THE FLINTSTONES and Barney, the resident drunk in THE SIMPSONS.
This list is subject to change, just as soon as I can think of any more Barneys. Hey, wasn’t there a posh New York department store called BARNEYS in FRIENDS where Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel Greene used to shop? I’ll look into it. Over and out…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: