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A twisting, turning, cloak-and-dagger delight, NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH is a gripping, occasionally comic confection from writers Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes) and director Carol Reed (The Fallen Idol, The Third Man). Paced like an out-of-control locomotive, NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH takes viewers on a World War IIera journey from Prague to England to the Swiss Alps, as Nazis pursue a Czech scientist and his daughter (Margaret Lockwood, of The Lady Vanishes), who are being aided by a debonair British undercover agent, played by Rex Harrison (Major Barbara, My Fair Lady). This captivating, long-overlooked adventure--which also features Casablanca's Paul Henreid --mixes comedy, romance, and thrills with enough skill and cleverness to give the master of suspense himself pause.
A certain breathless immediacy pulses through Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich, even if the movie conveys a puckish sense of fun. The immediacy probably stems from the topical subject matter: released in Britain in the summer of 1940, less than a year after the beginning of World War II, the film serves up still-fresh images of espionage, Hitler's SS, and concentration camps. The opening reels are packed with excitement: plucky Czech Margaret Lockwood hustles her scientist father (James Harcourt) out from under the Nazi thumb, only to fall to more skullduggery after emigrating to England. Rex Harrison plays her breezy British contact, first seen singing a jaunty tune as a song plugger (for anyone familiar with Harrison's later My Fair Lady vocalizing, his career here is highly amusing). The second half of the picture concentrates on a journey across Europe as the war is breaking out, and clearly aspires to (and frequently matches) the comic-suspenseful mode perfected in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, which also starred Lockwood. Both films were written by the crack team of Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, who bring in that glorious cricket-loving combo from The Lady Vanishes, Charters and Caldicott. They are played again by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, who are just as funny here as they were in the earlier picture. Years before The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, Reed's direction navigates the tricky shifts between comedy, high adventure, and can-do wartime patriotism: see the splendid silent beat that follows the moment Charters and Caldicott hear that war has begun, broken by Charters's serious reflection that it will now be dashed difficult to get his golf clubs out of Europe. Superb. The Criterion release of Night Train to Munich includes a half-hour conversation between experts on the filmmakers--staged, fittingly, aboard an old train car. --Robert Horton
There is something about British films produced during the war, which they all share: survival. Especially, those produced prior to American involvement in 1941-42. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Stephen T.
PLOT: Czech scientist and his daughter try and escape Nazi Germany.
The Nazis invade Czechoslovakia and a scientist escapes to England. Read more