Drawing Inspiration From the Master of Suspense

I’ve been slightly set back with my design of the bar by my obsession with the booths. They are the most important part of the set and a key aspect of the story as they are the draw for the customers that wish to share information secretly. They have to be cosy and secluded enough so that the customers feel completely sure they wont be heard. Arden (the owner) didn’t design the bar with this intention and isn’t a wealthy man so this part of the design should look quite incidental.

You can find my post about the description of the set for this story here.

The idea to use what looks like salvaged train compartments came from re-watching Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Using Hitchcock’s film as inspiration is appropriate for my story as the film is all about suspicion and conspiracy following the disappearance of a woman. Various collections of characters hide in the compartments to privately discuss whether to say they remember the woman or not.


English trains no longer have individual compartment like these. The original layout of these compartments came from the design of stagecoaches, as coachmakers were the ones to build these early rail carriages. I’ve seen three versions of this film, and Hitchcock’s original 1938 version (based on the novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White), is my favourite.

The image on the right shows my two favourite characters, Charters and Caldicott, who were added by Hitchcock to the film plot for comic relief. They are wo cricket obsessed, English gentleman who decide to lie about remembering the missing woman for the simple and selfish reason that they don’t want the train to be delayed because they might miss the Test match.

The Lady Vanishes

The recent BBC version was more closely based on the novel and, for this reason was missing my favourite characters. I thought the new version was beautiful, particularly the set design,  but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the characters weren’t as likeable in this version. Therefore, it is harder to care for them and what they are trying to do.

I actually prefer both the 1938 Hitchcock and the 1979 Hammer film to this, which was very silly in parts. However for my purposes, this new version is the most useful as the set design is really good. In particular, I really like the worn out fabric of the seats as this gives a strong sense of time, travel and lots of people over the years using the carriages. The rich colour and texture adds atmosphere to the set design and the pattern makes the scene seem more claustrophobic and tense.


The sizing of the compartments in the film look a little too large to be appropriate for the bar set, so I may need to make a few adjustments. Also is it often difficult to see the details of set design clearly from screen captures. Fortunately, the Metropolitan 353 carriage, an original underground train, has been recently restored. The first class carriage of which is made up of individual compartments.


I was also interested in the bar itself being hidden away. Since my story is a dystopia set around political secrets, it follows that drinking could be less acceptable, or even outlawed, such as it is during the prohibition in America in the early 1900s. I really like the look of American Speakeasies but don’t want to get too caught up in a ‘borrowed style’. So I want to continue the theme of salvaged materials.

2 thoughts on “Drawing Inspiration From the Master of Suspense

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