Monday, July 25, 2011
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 who 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.
By Michael Leddy at 8:24 AM