Otto Preminger dismissed Bunny Lake Is Missing as his "small" and "unsuccessful" project. Next to the director's behemoth, Exodus, and his jewel, Laura, the film certainly pales in scope and accolades. Yet in the years since Preminger's death, this insignificant mystery has become a cult favorite and a critics' doll. Cinema aficionados have rallied for its video release and scholars Jeanine Basinger and Andrew Sarris show it regularly in their film studies courses. Bunny Lake Is Missing really is an oddly compelling piece of work. The picture's veteran actors, Laurence Olivier and Noël Coward, embrace their own hamminess and play their eccentric characters with bravado. As a result, the comic idiosyncrasies of Olivier's detective and Coward's landlord never appear clichéd or boring. Keir Dullea, fresh from winning both a Golden Globe and a British Academy Award, is equally explosive and genuinely sinister as Stephen Lake. His true-life antagonistic relationship with Preminger comes through in his character -- Stephen is erratic, frustrated, and deliciously passive-aggressive. In contrast, Carol Lynley's performance as Ann is so delicately understated that the girl's alienation from her male counterparts is frighteningly palpable. In fact, Preminger's use of Lynley as the tortured young blonde is celebrated as one of the many blatantly Hitchcockian elements of the psychological thriller. However, while Hitchcock preferred to create drama by drawing attention to physical objects, Preminger does so by simply drawing out scenes. Each long take is a little too long, each silence is a little too lengthy, and each character seems to abuse his or her chance to talk. This combination manages to disconcert as well as mesmerize.
by Aubry Anne D'Arminio review