Bunny Lake Is Missing

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 English rock band the Zombies also appear in the film, in a television broadcast.

Bunny Lake Is Missing
Film poster designed by Saul Bass
Directed byOtto Preminger
Produced byOtto Preminger
Screenplay byJohn Mortimer
Penelope Mortimer
Based onBunny Lake Is Missing
by Marryam Modell
StarringLaurence Olivier
Carol Lynley
Keir Dullea
Music byPaul Glass
CinematographyDenys N. Coop
Edited byPeter Thornton
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
3 October 1965 (1965-10-03) (US)
10 February 1966 (1966-02-10) (UK)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Though initially received with indifference from both critics and Preminger himself, the film has since been reappraised, particularly for its technical merits, and currently holds an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes[1]


American single mother Ann Lake (Carol Lynley), who recently moved to London from New York, arrives at the Little People's Garden pre-school to collect her daughter, Bunny. The child has mysteriously disappeared. An administrator recalls meeting Ann but claims never to have seen the missing child. Ann and her brother Steven (Keir Dullea) search the school and find a sinister woman living upstairs, who claims she collects children's nightmares. In desperation, the Lakes call the police and Superintendent Newhouse (Laurence Olivier) arrives on the scene. Everyone becomes a suspect and Superintendent Newhouse is steadfast, diligently following every lead. The police and Newhouse decide to visit the Lakes' new residence.

They find that all of Bunny's possessions have been removed from the Lakes' home. Ann cannot understand why anyone would do this and reacts emotionally. Superintendent Newhouse begins to suspect that Bunny Lake does not exist after he learns that "Bunny" was the name of Ann's imaginary childhood friend. Ann's landlord (Noël Coward), an aging actor, attempts to seduce her. Newhouse decides to become better acquainted with Ann to learn more about Bunny. He takes her to a local pub where he plies her with brandy and soda.

On her return home, Ann discovers she still has the claim ticket for Bunny's doll, which was taken to a doll hospital for repairs. Regarding the doll as proof of Bunny's existence, she frantically rushes to the doll hospital late at night and retrieves the doll. Steven arrives later and, when Ann shows him the doll, Steven knocks Ann unconscious and burns the doll, trying to destroy it. He takes Ann to a hospital and tells the desk nurse that Ann has been hallucinating about a missing girl who does not exist. Ann is sedated and put under observation.

Ann wakes and escapes from the hospital. She discovers Steven burying Bunny's possessions; he has sedated the child and hidden her in the boot of his car. Steven implies an incestuous interest/relationship with his sister and complains that Bunny has always come between them; because he believes Ann loves Bunny more than him, the child threatens Steven's dream of a future with Ann. Realising that her brother is insane, Ann plays childhood games with him to distract him.[2][3] Newhouse, having discovered that Steven had lied to the police about the ship that brought the Lakes to England, arrives in time to rescue Ann and Bunny and apprehend Steven.


Laurence OlivierSuperintendent Newhouse
Carol LynleyAnn Lake
Keir DulleaSteven Lake
Martita HuntAda Ford
Anna MasseyElvira Smollett
Clive RevillSergeant Andrews
Finlay CurrieThe Doll Maker
Lucie MannheimThe Cook
Noël CowardHoratio Wilson
Adrienne CorriDorothy
Megs JenkinsSister
Delphi Lawrence1st Mother
David OxleyDoctor
Victor MaddernTaxi Driver
Suky ApplebyBunny Lake
The ZombiesThemselves

Production details

Adapting the original novel,[4] Preminger moved the story from New York to London, where he liked working. His dark, sinister vision of London made use of many real locations: the Barry Elder Doll Museum in Hammersmith stood in for the dolls' hospital;[5] the Little People's Garden School used school buildings in Hampstead; and the "Frogmore End" house was one that had belonged to novelist Daphne du Maurier's father Sir Gerald du Maurier. Preminger had found the novel's denouement lacking in credibility, so he changed the identity of the would-be murderer. This prompted many rewrites from his British husband-and-wife scriptwriters John Mortimer and Penelope Mortimer before Preminger was satisfied.[6]

As with the 1960 film Psycho, audiences were not admitted after the film's start. This was not common practice at the time and was emphasised 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 featured performing on a television in the pub where Superintendent Newhouse meets with Ann, and "Just Out of Reach" plays on a janitor's radio as Ann escapes from the hospital. 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 what became the common Hollywood practice of promotional tie-ins with popular musical acts.[7]

The 1965 Sunbeam Tiger sports car (registration EDU 296C) featured in this film still exists as a classic car, and sold at auction for £35,840 (2015).

Home video releases

The movie was released on DVD in 2005 (Region 1) and 2007 (Region 2). In 2014, Twilight Time released a limited Blu-ray edition.[8][9]

The film was spoofed in Mad magazine, in the April 1966 issue (#102), under the title "Bubby Lake Missed by a mile"[10]


  1. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bunny_lake_is_missing
  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. 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)
  5. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/dolls-surgeon
  6. Foster Hirsch, "Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King" (2007).
  7. 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.
  8. Twilight Time
  9. Home Theater Forum, Blu-ray
  10. "Doug Gilford's Mad Cover Site - Mad #102". madcoversite.com.
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