Continuing with my trend of being a self-styled honorary troper until someone from tvtropes.org notices me and helps me get my membership in order, I have decided to make a new page for the movie Bunny Lake is Missing. It’s especially apropos, since there is no full page in existence at the actual website.
Bunny Lake is Missing is a film in the Mystery, Thriller genres, filmed in London in 1965. Starring Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea, and Laurence Olivier.
After leaving her four year-old daughter, Bunny at a nursery, Annie Lake spends the morning adjusting to her new life in England. Upon returning to the preschool, Anne is distraught at learning that not only is her daughter missing, but that none of the staff seem to remember seeing her.
Only her brother, Stephen seems to be aware of Bunny’s existence and even that becomes suspect as it seems that Stephen is planting seeds of doubt in the minds of the police, including Superintendent Newhouse (Laurence Olivier), who are beginning to believe that Bunny Lake is a figment of Annie’s imagination.
This movie contains examples of the following tropes:
Adult Fear – There are so many that the movie’s alternate title could easily be Adult Fear: The Movie
Losing a child is bad enough. But imagine your first day trying to start a new life in a new country where you are still getting used to using their money of all things and the first local you’ve really gotten to know is the creepy as hell landlord. Your child goes missing from a place where she should have been completely safe. No one at the school who was responsible for her care seems to have seen her and as if their lack of sympathy isn’t bad enough, they’re not exactly tripping over themselves to help you.
Then we learn that Stephen was able to walk right into the school and walk out with Bunny and place her in the trunk of his car in broad daylight without anyone noticing. One can only imagine that he had the car parked somewhere out of sight, which is why no one seemed to question him, although incidents like this could be why London has so much surveillance now if people are that oblivious.
Stephen, Annie’s brother and the one who encouraged her to leave America to live with him in England, turns out to be the one who kidnapped Bunny. This is especially scary when you realize that at first, he was the only person supporting Annie through this crisis and throughout the movie we see evidence that he is not only supporting Superintendent Newhouse’s suspicion that Bunny might be a figment of Anne’s imagination, but he is the one carefully manipulating the police into keeping their attention off of him.
Stephen is also suffering from psychosis that guides his actions throughout the movie. It’s what drives him to kidnap his four year-old niece and then trying to bury her alive so that he can have his sister to himself (Let’s not even get into the potential subtext of that). It’s no wonder that Annie isn’t exactly bubbling with enthusiasm, even with Bunny alive and safe in her arms after Newhouse’s Big Damn Hero moment.
Artistic License – Cars, Biology –
It’s implied that Bunny has been locked up in the trunk of Stephen’s car from the morning until midnight of the same day, yet she wakes up and rubs her eyes as if she had just been having a nap. If Cinema Sins were to cover this movie, the often quoted line would be, “Yeah, she’s dead.”
Batman Gambit – Annie has to play this when she realizes that Stephen had something to do with Bunny’s disappearance. The police and nearly everyone she has met in London think she is cloud cuckoolander, so she has no other choice than to first pretend to be unconscious so that she can be admitted to the hospital when Stephen “knocks her out”. Later she escapes the hospital and finds Stephen burning Bunny’s things and then taking Bunny out of the trunk of his car with the intent to strangle her. It’s only playing along with his psychosis that gives Annie a modicum of control over the situation and ultimately keeps Bunny alive.
Big Damn Heroes: Newhouse sweeps in at the last minute with London PD to arrest Stephen before he can do any more harm to Annie or Bunny. Stephen appears to be this in the beginning of the film when Annie calls him to tell him that Bunny is missing.
Bittersweet Ending – Bunny is alive and well and Stephen has a padded cell waiting for him thanks to the persistent efforts of Newman and London’s Thin Blue Line, but considering the day Annie has had, you just know the next day isn’t shaping up to be any better.
Checkov’s Gun – Newhouse figures out that the boat Stephen told him Annie came in on was the wrong one because he actually asked a staff member at the port authority. He remembers what Annie said about how long they had been in England and it’s how he figures out that Bunny was real.
Cloud Cuckolander – Annie is thought to be this, but Stephen Lake is the living embodiment.
Failed a Spot Check – The police could have at least asked Stephen to check the back of his trunk, but he was extremely cooperative and manipulative that Stephen brags that he was able to keep them from suspecting him.
Upon realizing where Stephen had gone to, Annie runs right past the car which is parked outside of the mansion. It’s forgivable in this instance too because you don’t exactly have a plan in mind for finding out that your brother is mentally ill to the point of being a dangerous psychotic.
Idiot Ball – Where do we start?
First, Annie just leaves Bunny at the school without making sure any of the staff knows she is there. Bunny is her only child, so she could be forgiven for making a mistake or two, but this one seems to take the cake.
Stephen rightly calls out the staff at the school for their lack of concern that a child went missing on their watch. If you don’t know right away that he’s the one who kidnapped her, you might mistake him for being the Big Damn Hero in this moment. It doesn’t help that the staff are being extremely defenseless and not even acting like a four year-old going missing and coming to harm on their watch could put them on the hot seat with the media of the day and cost the school its license.
This becomes less forgivable in Newhouse’s case, since he was clearly beginning to poke holes in Stephen’s story. It might have been necessary at that point to rule Stephen out as a suspect.
Ironic Nickname – The titular character’s name is actually Felicia. Stephen lets on that when Annie was a child, she had an imaginary friend named Bunny, which she now uses as an affectionate nickname for her daughter. Annie later confirms this when questioned by Newman and it seems to support the theory of the real life Bunny being just as fictitious.
Manipulative Bastard: Steven Lake
Oooh, Me Accent’s Slipping – Bunny is supposed to be an American child. But one line of dialogue is a dead giveaway that the actress is British.
Police Are Useless – Averted. Aside from a minor plot hole related to the use of police dogs since there is no on screen evidence that Annie or Stephen had anything belonging to Bunny that would give them a scent to work with, the police in this movie are accurately portrayed and thorough in their efforts.
Even though Newhouse has it in the back of his head that Bunny is a figment of Annie’s imagination, he follows every lead no matter how far of a stretch it is because, in the end if he’s wrong, then a four year-old girl could wind up dead on his watch.
Of course let’s not forget that this was the same guy who could have easily requested to see the inside of Stephen’s trunk.