Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Night Train to Munich |
The Criterion Collection
Actors: Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul Henreid
Director: Carol Reed
Genres: Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
A twisting, turning, cloak-and-dagger delight, NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH is a gripping, occasionally comic confection from writers Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes) and director Carol Reed (The F... more »
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Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY
Reviewed on 9/12/2010...
'B' picture still wins points as piece of World War II history
*** This review contains spoilers ***
The best part of 'Night Train to Munich' is the inciting incident which leads to the Act 2 machinations involving Rex Harrison's Dickie Randall, the naval officer masquerading as music hall entertainer, Gus Bennett. Czech scientist and armor-plating expert, Axel Bomasch. is whisked away to England, right before the Nazis march in, but his daughter Anna (Margaret Lockwood) is left behind and ends up in a concentration camp. She befriends Paul Marsen, who at first appears to be a Czech political prisoner (played by Paul Henreid, famous for his Viktor Laszlo role in 'Casablanca'). Na´ve Anna doesn't realize that the escape from the concentration cap is manufactured and that Marsen is actually a member of the Gestapo.
Somehow, Randall and his fellow intelligence operatives, can't seem to figure out that the Germans have already deduced the location of Bomasch or the fact that Marsen is a double agent. Instead of killing Bomasch, the Germans merely knock him out and whisk Axel and Anna back to Germany in a U-boat. Wouldn't you know it but Randall's superiors have no objections to allowing him to go to Germany and try and save the kidnapped Czechs. Since he's spent three years in Germany, he supposedly can speak the language and pretend that he's a high level Army Engineer. Incredibly, he easily gains access to Anna and her father after producing forged paperwork which is not closely examined by the bumbling Germans. Randall pretends that he formerly was involved with Anna and convinces the Germans (including the skeptical Gestapo double agent) that he might be able to convince Anna to help change her father's mind about the Nazis. A wrench is thrown into Randall's plan to spirit Anna and her father out of Germany when he learns that the Nazis have gotten orders from headquarters to immediately bring the Czechs to Munich.
While on the train, we're introduced to the same self-involved Englishmen, Charters and Caldicott, who also appeared as the same characters in Hitchcock's 'The Lady Vanishes'. Charters blows Randall's cover when he asks Randall if he's the same person who he knew as an undergraduate at Oxford. According to one sagacious internet poster, Charters and Caldicott are not dolts but rather represent those Englishmen who chose to remain ignorant about the goings-on in Europe prior to the outbreak of the war. That's why the most important thing to Caldicott about "Mein Kampf" is that it's used as a marital aid by German women. It's only after a German soldier orders Charters and Calidcott to grovel before them, that they become galvanized and decide to 'join the cause' and help Randall.
I'm unable to speak very highly about the climax of 'Night Train to Munich'. How is Randall able to subdue Henreid's Gestapo man without making any noise inside the train cabin? And how do Charters and Caldicott subdue two German soldiers and bring them back to the same cabin without being noticed? How do they so easily remove the solders' uniforms and put them on, also without making any noise? And what about the long car ride from Munich to Switzerland? Did you ever hear the word, 'roadblock'? During the shootout from the cable car, Rex Harrison seems to fire about 30 bullets when it appears he's carrying a gun that probably can fire only six cartridges. Finally, our Gestapo guy doesn't seem that badly wounded which would prevent him from dragging himself up to the cable controls and stopping the cable car from reaching the other side.
You can catch 'Night Train' in a newly restored version from the Criterion Collection. The only extra is commentary from so-called film scholars Peter Evans and Bruce Babington. Unfortunately, Evans and Babington fail to make even one critical point regarding this film as they regard it as some kind of masterpiece. Given its slew of implausibilities, a masterpiece it is not.
The film was very highly regarded in the US when it was released here in 1940. For its time, it was a highly effective piece of propaganda which helped convince Americans that Britain's war against Germany was just. The English, with their laid back "business as usual" attitude is nicely contrasted with the unscrupulous and menacing behavior of both the German Army/security apparatus and bureaucracy. A great deal of credit must be given to Paul Henreid as the sinister Gestapo agent. Unlike some of the other German/Nazi characters in the film, he's actually quite scary (as he should be). From a modern sensibility, Rex Harrison's casual acting demeanor coupled with the absolute ease in which his character outwits his opponents, relegates 'Night Train to Munich' to the realm of the 'B' picture. But as a piece of World War II history, 'Night Train' is well worth viewing at least once.
Better than The Lady Vanishes
Steve Reina | Troy Michigan | 07/23/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Had Alfred Hitchcock still been making films in Britain in 1940, this would have been the second version of his 1938 The Lady Vanishes.
Had that been the case, then, we would have had essentially two versions of the same movie with the same writing team and the same director.
However, such was not the case, so in this movie we nonetheless get to see an improved version of The Lady Vanishes.
Like The Lady Vanishes, the story revolves around a maiden in distress aided by a dashing Brit (here played by a very young and bouyant Rex Harrison) where the critical action...well...takes place on a train.
In 1938, in the shadow of impending war, Hitchcock was barred by studio politics from directing naming his enemy: the Nazis. But here, we prominently see guys in Nazi uniforms doing bad stuff to our damsel in distress (played by Margaret Lockwood).
A CAUTIONARY NOTE: For those unfamiliar with this film, it contains many scenes where see Paul Henreid (yes! Victor Laslow from Casablanca himself) dressed in a Nazi uniform. For even those slightly familiar with Casablanca I would wager the sight will be a disjuntive one in much the same way seeing Nosferatu's Max Schreck in a comedic role in Murneau's Duke's Finances is disjunctive.
In other words, being so used to considering that particular actor in one special role, it momentarily deflates your suspension of disbelief to see him in so different a role.
AND ANOTHER CAUTIONARY NOTE: Because this movie was made in 1940, its depiction of German concentration camp life is grossly at odds with what later newsreel footage so sadly showed us. The inmates -- contrary to history -- seem well dressed and well fed. In fact, Lockwood even teases Harrison by telling him that his singing is much worse than anything she experienced in the German camps. Would that such had actually been historically true.
But movies, I guess, are ultimately about the times in which they were made. Though history no doubt outdated some of the story elements of this movie, the movie still tells us volumes about what people perceived to be the situation at that critical juncture. (On a side note, I imagined the likes of Charles Lindbergh -- who fought for appeasement with Germany -- favorably watching this movie and approving its tone even into the 40s.)
BUT THESE THINGS BEING SAID: This movie nonetheless remains a major achievement in that it was still an anti German movie at such an early point in the conflict.
From my perspective the main thing that elevates this movie over its 1938 version is a predictably stellar performance by Harrison who really sells the whole cavalier hero thing essentially make him a sort of proto James Bond.
And for his part, Henried does make ultimately make just as good of villain here as he had been a hero in Casablanca. While Rick and Elsa may always have Paris, this movie shows us that Henreid will always have this part and his Laslow to show some of the range he so undeniably had.
For the reasons I've mentioned and so many others, I highly recommend this movie!"
CLASSIC CLOAK & DAGGER THRILL RIDE
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 07/14/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A desperate father and daughter situation literally rides the rails in director Carol Reed's fast-paced, twisting, classic cloak-and-dagger thrill ride. Reed, best known for THE THIRD MAN, delivered a rousing film that 1940 audiences cheered. Finally on a crisp DVD, the story of Nazis chasing a Czech scientist and his daughter through the Swiss Alps mixes comedy, romance and suspense without sidetracking the seriousness of the WWII era story. Maragaret Lockwood is daughter in peril and Rex Harrison is a suave British undercover agent who comes to her aid. This much overlooked film was a kind of unofficial sequel to Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES and definitely continues the high quality of the former in every way. I love the period stock footage that fleshes out the story and the locations."