Forget Indiana Jones. This 1965 high adventure stars Frank Sinatra as the leader of a mass escape from a World War II POW camp in Italy. That mission accomplished, Old Blue Eyes has sundry adventures camouflaging the freed... more » men as German soldiers, trying to fool the Gestapo, and finally doing battle with enemy planes and ground troops while trying to get a hijacked train through a blocked tunnel. Sinatra is in great form and director Mark Robson handles the endless chain of action set-pieces with panache. A great pulse-quickener. --Tom Keogh« less
"Von Ryan's Express is a WW2 movie deserving of classic status. The action is not exactly battlefield stuff, but the movie weaves an interesting plot into a tension filled escape of POW's from the Nazi's. Frank Sinatra's sleepy style compliments the role he plays as someone who has just escaped from a POW camp. The supporting cast all perform admirably and it is very refreshing to have a film where the Germans actually speak German and the Italians speak Italian. Made in 1965, the period when war movies were made in droves, Von Ryan's Express stood out amoung them as being that little bit different. What a great time I had in the late 60's and early 70's watching these movies and when this movie came out I found it so exciting. I have lost none of that enthusiasm for the movie today. It is one I regularly pull out of my DVD collection and give an airing. Okay, it doesn't have the polish of recent war movies but it has qualities that just can't be emulated even with the latest movie making technology. Highly recommended."
Well Plotted World War II Action Film
Lonnie E. Holder | Columbus, Indiana, United States | 05/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie has all the elements of a good action movie. The outcome is uncertain. The bad guys are really bad. The hero (Frank Sinatra) is idealistic and optimistic, and suffers from bad-decision angst more than once.The movie starts in an Italian POW camp, commanded by a heartless Italian commander played by Adolfo Celi, who some may remember as Emilio Largo in the James Bond thriller "Thunderball". Colonel Joseph Ryan (Sinatra) is nicknamed "Von Ryan" as he initially appears to be collaborating with their captors. Ryan is very optimistic and continually sees opportunity in every situation. Major Eric Fincham, played by Trevor Howard, is a pessimist, and sees disaster at every turn. Further, these two men are in conflict because Major Fincham was the ranking POW until Frank Sinatra was captured.As the Allies appear to be threatening the region, the Italians guarding the prison leave, and suddenly the POWs have a chance to escape. Their escape is short-lived as they are soon re-captured by Germans. The POWs are placed into boxcars for transport to Germany, with the exception of the wounded, who are executed by German soldiers prior to the train's departure.As the train travels to Germany, Ryan decides that there may be an opportunity for escape. Ryan leads the creation of a plan to eliminate the guards and take over the train, with the goal of eventually leaving the train to head for the coast and potential reunion with Allied forces. After taking over the train, the POWs first attempt to escape is thwarted when they find themselves in the middle of an Allied bombing mission. The POWs then develop an even more creative plan to escape to Switzerland. In their bid to escape the POWs must fight off the Luftwaffe and a Nazi-led troop train following close behind. The end of this movie will keep action war-movie fans on the edge of their seat until the credits roll.There are several events in this movie that give depth to Ryan's character. Several events occur within the prison camp, such as when Ryan leads the men in burning all their clothes in order to get better clothing. Another is when Ryan supercedes Fincham in dealing with the prison commander after departure of the guards. Ryan twice saves people and twice the outcome is tragic. The first time Fincham is extremely critical of Ryan. The second time Fincham is sympathetic, but Ryan is so angry with himself he refuses to listen.Ryan is generally optimistic and idealistic, which has often been a criticism of Americans by Europeans. On the other hand, Fincham is pessimistic and would consider himself to be a realist. These two approaches and views are compared throughout the movie, and ultimately the movie avoids answering the question as to whether one approach is better than the other. As the end of the movie approaches, it is clear that Ryan's faith in his optimism and idealism has been shaken. Similarly, Fincham has come to admire Ryan's optimism and idealism, and knows that the opportunity presented to the POWs was only as a result of Ryan's optimism. Ultimately, the movie suggests that perhaps the middle ground is the best.This movie is one of the better war movies from the 50s and 60s, and along with "The Great Escape", is one of the very best POW prison escape movies. Certainly portions of the movie are unrealistic. However, look past the fictionalized account of the escape, watch the adventure, and observe the conflict of ideologies. An enjoyable to watch and well-done movie."
An enjoyable guilty pleasure but not a necessary upgrade if
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 11/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Von Ryan's Express belongs to the dying days of WW2-as-Boys-Own-adventure movies, where, for all the cynical window-dressing, the good guys can always outwit overwhelming numbers of Nazis and death is still heroic. It's also much more entertaining than it has any right to be as Frank Sinatra's unpopular new senior officer leads several hundred prisoners of war to freedom by hijacking a Nazi train and conning his way through Italy to Switzerland while Trevor Howard's old school British officer snipes at his bad form all the way and Edward Mulhare's loveable padre impersonates a German officer to get them past the checkpoints. Yep, it's The Great Escape meets The Train, with Great Escaper John Leyton along for the ride just in case anyone misses the connection. As big, not quite as dumb as it could be entertainment it certainly does the trick, throwing in an enjoyable if sparse Jerry Goldsmith score and a particularly memorable finale.
Sadly the new 2-DVD release really is hard to recommend for any but hardcore Jerry Goldsmith fans, the only notable extras being an isolated score track and a brief featurette on the composer. Aside from trailers and TV spots, the rest is made up with talking heads background featurettes with none of the films surviving participants contributing. Even worse is the fact that brief clips are used from a vintage behind the scenes short made during production, but the short itself is not included. It's fine for a first-time buy, but not really worth an upgrade if you already have the previous edition. "
Outstanding WWII action film
Zach Bibeault | Minneapolis, MN | 07/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Easily one of the best action movies I've seen, and it just goes to show you that action movies don't need gratuitous violence to be awesome (it's rated PG). If this had been made today, it would have probably starred Brad Pitt and would have been gruesome just for the sake of being gruesome, but instead it stars Frank Sinatra (?? didn't know he could act well, this was first movie I saw him in) and most violence is implied, making it seem almost more intense. Awesome and highly recommended."
Best WWII Movie
Suzanne | Michigan | 11/25/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film gets my vote for the best WWII movie ever! It's got Trevor Howard as the penultimate crazy British colonel, and our man Frank as the no nonsense American Flying ace. The characters bring out interesting facts about the Italian Cooperation with the Germans (very half-hearted) during wwII and the sense of frustration and uncertainty during the closing days of the war on the part of all the countries involved. This film represents the sense of honor and integrity that were common among soldiers, at that time, and how human beings can have odd interpratations of these noble character traits."