One film, two versions: The Vanishing

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.

31 thoughts on “One film, two versions: The Vanishing

  1. Great post πŸ™‚ I have to agree with you on everything you said here πŸ™‚ The 1988 European version is far superior to the crappy 1993 American remake. Anyway, keep up the great work as always πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Disgusting American remake–and I say this as a proud American and lover of American cinema. This film is an example of what is wrong with American (mainstream) cinema: 1. It has contempt for its audience 2. It was made not for human beings but for the cash register (credit card terminal) 3. It throws actors at the project like some politicians throw money at the problem. Terrible, contemptible, embarrassing remake. Can’t believe George Sluizer prostituted his skills and talent like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes…another one of these: and this time I have seen them both: Woohoo! I completely and totally agree with you. The American version was so incredibly dumb. They totally ruined the movie with that typical Hollywood ending. The original version packed an enormous punch. When I first saw it, my jaw fell nearly on the floor at the ending of the film. It was really powerful and much more realistic. Such a great film.
    Have to say that I really like this series of posts Pete: well done 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pete, I’ve seen the original film, and therefore know how it ends. I have not seen the Hollywood remake, and have no desire to do so. You’re right. It’s all about the ending. Change the ending, and you ruin the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I missed both but I’m really intrigued by the original Danish version. An interesting post. I think you’re on to something. I do this from time to time (Beguiled vs. Beguiled) and not only are they fun to write, the conversations are satisfying, too. More, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hadn’t seen either, but could make more sense of the 2nd trailer even though the first had subtitles. Don’t think I”d bother with either of them as the premise is so stupid. Who in his right mind is going to drink drugged coffee given by a self-confessed kidnapper/potential murderer?? πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t usually read your film posts as I am not a film buff, but this caught my eye as I thought I recognised it. I did! I watched the original film on TV at some time in the ’90s probably and I am sure I watched it again later. As you say, a very good film though I have already forgotten the ending (which is why I can always watch a film again, I have a very poor recollection of endings).

    Liked by 1 person

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