Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Mystery-lovers may like "Lady"

Cleveland Press February 1, 1971

A few years ago this could have been the sort of movie advertised with the proviso that no one would be seated during the last 10 minutes.

"Lady in the Car" is one of those puzzlers that is explained away in the last few minutes of the action, an explanation that depends on both intricate plotting and amazing coincidences.

Mystery-starved audiences may find some of this diverting, about the first half of it anyway. But the movie achieves a sort of plateau and never moves from it. Suspense should build to a climax but between the relative coolness of the heroine in the face of what must either be a diabolical plot or her madness and a tendency to low -key acting on the part of everyone else, the movie never hits that peak.

Samantha Eggar, the heroine, works in a Paris advertising office and has been asked by her boss (Oliver Reed) to type a report over the weekend at his home.

When the work is done Reed and his wife (Stephane Audran) fly to Geneva and Miss Eggar is told to drive their car back to Paris. The auto is a big, white Mercury convertible which makes it notable in a country lacking in big, white Mercury convertibles. It is a necessary plot device.

On an impulse Miss Eggar heads for the south of France instead of Paris. She is met by people who claim to recognize her and the car as having passed that way earlier in the day - the proprietress in a cafe wants to return her coat and a service station attendant recalls repairing a headlight for her.

She picks up a hitchhiker (John McEnery) to whom she confides her story, then shares her hotel room with him. He steals the car but she tracks him down only to discover a corpse in the trunk of the car.

And in the dead man's pocket is a note from her.

There is more, of course, before that wind-up and then the movie just fizzles out.

Miss Eggar performs well but is too cool and reserved in a role that calls for a touch of hysteria. Reed has too little to do, disappearing early which is a tipoff to the story's resolution.

France is beautifully photographed by Claude Renoir and there is an interesting musical score by Michel Legrand.

However Anatole Litvak's soft-pedal direction never grabs you.