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Released only a few months after In Harm’s Way, Bunny Lake Is Missing is almost its sister film’s antithesis in Preminger’s oeuvre. Neat, concise, and, like some of its characters, tightly wound, the film boasts only a rather small cast and a clever plot device (which, incidentally, seems to have been totally ripped off for this fall’s Flightplan, with Jodie Foster). But even without the elegantly constructed mystery, the film features some excellent character-actor performances from a weary, restrained Larry Olivier, a perverted Noël Coward, and Keir Dullea doing his best Anthony Perkins (to say nothing of a brief, gratuitous appearance by the Zombies). The presence of Dullea (along with the mid-60’s England setting) lends more than a little touch of Kubrick’s creepiness to the film, and the result is an unnerving psychological thriller that, even with Olivier’s kind reassurances at the end, manages to leave a nasty taste in one’s mouth.
Bunny Lake is a film that turns on the destruction of evidence, so Bass’ titles, which feature the tearing away of bits of paper to reveal the credits, precisely fit the film’s themes of concealment and revelation. The central image here – and the icon that helped to market the film – is that which accompanies Preminger’s credit: the shape of a little girl torn out of the black background. With this image, the titles also evoke the darker side of childhood, a sentiment reinforced with the first image of the film proper: the black background of the title sequence is torn away to reveal Dullea walking alone through a garden filled with toys but devoid of children.