Monday, July 25, 2011

Night Train to Munich

[Rex Harrison, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, in close quarters.]

How is it that Night Train to Munich (dir. Carol Reed, 1940) is so little known? It’s brilliant, in the colloquial British sense of that word — amazing, fantastic. The film moves at the speed of early Hitchcock and has a little of everything: betrayal, comedy, espionage, friendship, unconvincing model landscapes, pursuit, romance, secret messages, song, suspense, and train travel.

Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) is the clear inspiration — easy to understand, as Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder wrote both screenplays. Margaret Lockwood returns, here as a young Czech whose follows her scientist-father in fleeing the Nazis to England; Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, traveling home from a visit to Berlin, reprise their roles as Charters and Caldicott. Best of all is a plot element that owes nothing to the earlier film: a tricky triangle with Lockwood, Rex Harrison, and Paul Henreid. In the train-lavatory scene above, Harrison, impersonating a Nazi officer, gets the warning that the real Nazis are onto him.

Night Train to Munich is available, beautifully restored, from the Criterion Collection.

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

Ah, thank you for bringing this film to my attention, Michael. I adore Rex Harrison or, as I refer to him, the Captain ("The Ghost and Mrs. Muir"), so I will be sure to add this film to my list of ones to watch.
--Lindsay

Michael Leddy said...

You’re welcome, Lindsay. I found it through the luck of browsing, near Night and the City and Night of the Hunter.