Monday, August 30, 2010

1940, NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH, not a sequel to THE LADY VANISHES


Carol Reed directed this comedy thriller, which used the same leading lady and the same two supporting British boob characters Charters and Caldicott from The Lady Vanishes.  But the film was not a sequel to the Hitchcock film.  Carol Reed was about four years away from hitting his peak period as a filmmaker, the real auteur's of this film were the writers Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder who had written The Lady Vanishes and were none to happy that Hitchcock got most of the credit for that film.



This is a very 1930's film with a lot of plot.  The basic story is about the Nazi's capturing an important scientist and his daughter from the British, and a British spy's attempts to get them back.  It is a pretty dated but clever story, with the writers mixing in comedy and suspense.  The film uses a lot of model and miniature work which gives  the whole thing a kind of quaint charm.



The acting is very good with a young Rex Harrison standing out as the British master spy trying to save the scientist and his daughter.  Harrison gets to sing a couple of music hall songs and really hams it up in disguise as a Nazi officer, in a lot of ways he's the whole show.  Margaret Lockwood gets the very thankless role of the daughter of the scientist but she looks pretty good in that English actress kind of way.

The finale features a shoot out on a cable car between Harrison and the Nazis which is a combination of more miniatures and rear projection, yeah it looks pretty phony but it's a lot of silly fun. 


Carol Reed was a very talented director but at this stage in his career he was no Hitchcock, he just didn't seem to be able to stage this spy stuff the way "The Master of Suspense" could.  Reed always liked working with actors and he did get pretty good performances out of the cast but visually the film is pretty dull for the most part. In 1944, Carol Reed kicks it into gear and has a very impressive run of films for the next 10 years. 

An entertaining if rather unmemorable film, stick with Hitchock's British thrillers instead.

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