Bunny Lake Is Missing

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This article is about the 1965 film. For the 1957 novel, see Bunny Lake Is Missing (novel).
Bunny Lake Is Missing
Bunny Lake Is Missing.jpg
Directed by Otto Preminger
Produced by Otto Preminger
Screenplay by John Mortimer
Penelope Mortimer
Ira Levin
Based on Bunny Lake Is Missing 
by Marryam Modell
Starring Laurence Olivier
Carol Lynley
Keir Dullea
Martita Hunt
The Zombies
Noël Coward
Music by Paul Glass
Cinematography Denys N. Coop
Edited by Peter Thornton
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
Running time
107 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Bunny Lake Is Missing is a 1965 British psychological thriller film starring Laurence Olivier and directed and produced by Otto Preminger, who filmed it in black and white widescreen format in London. It was based on the novel of the same name by Merriam Modell. The score is by Paul Glass and the opening theme is often heard as a refrain. The Zombies also appear in a television broadcast.

Dismissed by both critics and Preminger as insignificant upon its release in 1965, the film received a strong review by critic Andrew Sarris.[1] The movie was released on DVD in 2005 (Region 1) and 2007 (Region 2).


After American single mother Ann Lake (Carol Lynley) arrives in London from New York, her child Bunny mysteriously disappears from her first day at the kindergarten Little People's Garden. Ann and her brother Steve (Keir Dullea) search the kindergarten and find an eccentric woman who lives upstairs who is compiling a recorded collection of little children's darker fantasies, what she calls "little nightmares". In desperation, they call the police, and Superintendent Newhouse (Laurence Olivier) arrives on the scene.

When they go to Ann's home they find that all of Bunny's possessions have been removed from the house. Ann cannot understand why anyone would do this and begins to break down saying this is "like a nightmare". Superintendent Newhouse begins to suspect that Bunny Lake does not exist, in part because Bunny was the name of an imaginary friend Ann had as a little girl.

Back at her apartment, Ann's landlord, an aging actor (Noël Coward) attempts to seduce her. Superintendent Newhouse decides he needs to get to know Ann better, and in turn learn more about Bunny, so he takes her to a local bar where he plies her with brandy and rock music plays on the television.

Ann discovers she has the claim tag on a doll of Bunny's that was taken to a doll shop to be repaired. She frantically rushes to the doll store late at night, surprised to discover the proprietor awake. She successfully retrieves the doll, but her brother has burst in and attempts to burn the doll and knocks her out. He takes her to a hospital where he tells the nurse that Ann has been raving like a lunatic about an imaginary girl who disappeared. Ann is sedated and put under observation. However, when she wakes up she manages to escape from the hospital. She rushes back to the house, now knowing her brother is the culprit. She discovers Stephen burying Bunny's possessions and about to kill Bunny. When she comes in her brother complains that Bunny has "Always been between them" that they cannot be together anymore because Ann now loves Bunny more than she loves him. Ann now realizes her brother is entirely mad. She attempts to play games from their childhood to distract him. Their dialogue hints at the film's earlier suggestions of incestuous feelings between them.[2][3]

However, the police have now gleaned the truth from discovering that Stephen had lied to them about what ship they came to England from America upon. They arrive in time to apprehend Stephen. Bunny and Ann are now safe.


Actor Role
Laurence Olivier Supt. Newhouse
Carol Lynley Ann Lake
Keir Dullea Stephen Lake
Martita Hunt Ada Ford
Anna Massey Elvira Smollett
Clive Revill Sergeant Andrews
Finlay Currie The Doll Maker
Lucie Mannheim The Cook
Noël Coward Horatio Wilson
Adrienne Corri Dorothy
Megs Jenkins Sister
Delphi Lawrence 1st Mother
David Oxley Doctor
Suky Appleby Bunny Lake

Production details[edit]

Adapting the original novel, Preminger re-set the story from New York to London, where he liked working. His dark, sinister vision of London made use of many real locations; Barry Elder's Doll Museum in Hammersmith stood in for the dolls' hospital, the Little People's Garden School used a real school in Hampstead, and the 'Frogmore End' house was one that had belonged to novelist Daphne du Maurier's father. Preminger had found the novel's denouement lacking in credibility so he changed the identity of the would-be murderer, which needed many re-writes from his British husband-and-wife scriptwriters John Mortimer and Penelope Mortimer before the famously demanding director was satisfied.[4]

As with its thematic predecessor, Psycho, audiences were not admitted after the film's start, which was not common practice at the time. This was heavily emphasized in the film's promotion, including on the poster, which warned "No One Admitted While the Clock is Ticking!".

English rock band The Zombies are featured in the credits and on the film's poster for their contribution of three songs to the film's soundtrack: "Remember You", "Just Out of Reach" and "Nothing's Changed". The band is prominently featured performing on a television in the pub where Supt. Newhouse meets with Ann, and "Just Out of Reach" plays on a janitor's radio as Ann escapes from the hospital. In addition, and with Preminger present in the studio, the band recorded a two-minute radio ad set to the tune of "Just Out of Reach" that promoted the film's release and urged audiences to "Come on time!" in keeping with the film's no-late-admissions policy. These efforts represent an early instance of the now-common Hollywood practice of promotional tie-ins with popular musical acts.[5]


  1. ^ Films
  2. ^ Orr, John, Otto Preminger and the End of Classical Cinema, sensesofcinema.com, 2006, retrieved 24 July 2008
  3. ^ Thompson, Nathaniel, Bunny Lake is Missing on DVD, tcm.com, retrieved 24 July 2008
  4. ^ Foster Hirsch, "Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King" (2007).
  5. ^ Alec Palao (1997). "Begin Here and Singles" and "In the Studio Rare and Unissued". In Zombie Heaven (pp. 46-47 & 58) [CD booklet]. London: Big Beat Records.
  • Maria DiBattista (Princeton University): "Afterword". In: Evelyn Piper: Bunny Lake Is Missing (Femmes Fatales: Women Write Pulp) (The Feminist Press at The City University of New York: New York, 2004) 198-219 (ISBN 1-55861-474-5) (includes a discussion of the differences between Piper's novel and Preminger's film version).

Home Video Releases[edit]

On August 2, 2014, Twilight Time Studio announced an upcoming Blu-ray edition of the film, which was eventually released on November 11. [1] [2]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Twilight Time
  2. ^ Home Theater Forum, Blu-ray