Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Night Train To Munich

I finally caught up with Night Train To Munich that was recently put out by Criterion. Directed by the sometimes very good Carol Reed, this will no doubt remind some of Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes” due to the plot the cast and the screenplay by Sydney Gilliat and Frank Launder who also pen...ned the Hitchcock film. Margaret Lockwood who plays a similar part as she did in The Lady Vanishes is ably supported by the two charming very British hapless and sometimes helpless travelers, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne playing Charters & Caldicott (sounds like a book store or a candy company) who reprise their roles from the Hitchcock thriller and who stumble into the action and the start of world war II. The film has suspense, intrigue along with nice little touches of sly humor, some of it black mostly supplied by Charters & Caldicott. At one point Charters is attempting to read Hitler's tome Mein Kampf which he picked up in a German train station book stall (it was either that or Gone With The Wind) and remarks "It's not exactly Honeymoon material, is it?" and quips to Caldicott "I'm still in Hitler's boyhood". More unexpected comic relief is supplied by Irene Handle who plays a gruff very self-assured female Nazi station master. A young and debonair Rex Harrison plays a hawker and singer of popular sheet music songs in a small sea side amusement park in Britain who leads a double and sometimes triple life and who soon becomes involved in the intrigue and danger surrounding Lockwood and her father. The movie even has a similar opening as the Lady Vanishes. There is a long shot of a miniature mountain retreat in which the camera moves slowly in and enters the house through a window in which we see an angry Adolph Hitler banging his fist on a spread out map of Austria on the eve of Germany’s invasion of the country. There is then a montage of newsreel footage of the Germans marching into Austria which is soon followed by them invading Czechoslovakia. Lockwood’s dad is a Czech scientist who has invented a formula for a super steel new kind of armor plating and the Germans want him to work for them but he escapes to England by plane during the invasion. Margaret who plays his glamorous daughter doesn’t make the plane and is put in concentration camp where still looking pretty and pert meets up with Paul Henreid who is also a prisoner. Henreid is billed here as Paul von Hernried and was a few years away from lighting those many cigarettes for Bette Davis in “Now Voyager“. Henreid and Lockwood escape the camp with the help of a sympatric guard and soon the cat and mouse chase is on. There are some nice plot twists at the beginning that had me fooled, all of which of course culminates on that night train to Munich. There is a charming use of miniatures; lots of double and triple crosses but one should not start thinking too much about the improbable plot. Not nearly as great as “The Lady Vanishes” but enjoyable viewing for a hot summer night.


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