72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining WW2 movie
Von Ryan's Express is a WW2 movie deserving of classic status. The action is not exactly battlefield stuff, but the movie weaves an interesting plot into a tension filled escape of POW's from the Nazi's. Frank Sinatra's sleepy style compliments the role he plays as someone who has just escaped from a POW camp. The supporting cast all perform admirably and it is very...
Published on June 17, 2002 by DH
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel Turns into Mediocre Movie
One of the first books that I read as a teenager (that wasn't off the juvenile shelves) was "Von Ryan's Express" by David Westheimer. It was a best seller at the time and I soon discovered why. The key to the book was the extensive middle where the Allied prisoners take over a transport train one car at a time. It was a very suspenseful and engrossing story of...
Published on January 19, 2005 by Randy Keehn
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72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining WW2 movie,
Von Ryan's Express is a WW2 movie deserving of classic status. The action is not exactly battlefield stuff, but the movie weaves an interesting plot into a tension filled escape of POW's from the Nazi's. Frank Sinatra's sleepy style compliments the role he plays as someone who has just escaped from a POW camp. The supporting cast all perform admirably and it is very refreshing to have a film where the Germans actually speak German and the Italians speak Italian. Made in 1965, the period when war movies were made in droves, Von Ryan's Express stood out amoung them as being that little bit different. What a great time I had in the late 60's and early 70's watching these movies and when this movie came out I found it so exciting. I have lost none of that enthusiasm for the movie today. It is one I regularly pull out of my DVD collection and give an airing. Okay, it doesn't have the polish of recent war movies but it has qualities that just can't be emulated even with the latest movie making technology. Highly recommended.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable guilty pleasure but not a necessary upgrade if you already have the film,
This review is from: Von Ryan's Express (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) (DVD)
Von Ryan's Express belongs to the dying days of WW2-as-Boys-Own-adventure movies, where, for all the cynical window-dressing, the good guys can always outwit overwhelming numbers of Nazis and death is still heroic. It's also much more entertaining than it has any right to be as Frank Sinatra's unpopular new senior officer leads several hundred prisoners of war to freedom by hijacking a Nazi train and conning his way through Italy to Switzerland while Trevor Howard's old school British officer snipes at his bad form all the way and Edward Mulhare's loveable padre impersonates a German officer to get them past the checkpoints. Yep, it's The Great Escape meets The Train, with Great Escaper John Leyton along for the ride just in case anyone misses the connection. As big, not quite as dumb as it could be entertainment it certainly does the trick, throwing in an enjoyable if sparse Jerry Goldsmith score and a particularly memorable finale.
Sadly the new 2-DVD release really is hard to recommend for any but hardcore Jerry Goldsmith fans, the only notable extras being an isolated score track and a brief featurette on the composer. Aside from trailers and TV spots, the rest is made up with talking heads background featurettes with none of the films surviving participants contributing. Even worse is the fact that brief clips are used from a vintage behind the scenes short made during production, but the short itself is not included. It's fine for a first-time buy, but not really worth an upgrade if you already have the previous edition.
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Plotted World War II Action Film,
This movie has all the elements of a good action movie. The outcome is uncertain. The bad guys are really bad. The hero (Frank Sinatra) is idealistic and optimistic, and suffers from bad-decision angst more than once.
The movie starts in an Italian POW camp, commanded by a heartless Italian commander played by Adolfo Celi, who some may remember as Emilio Largo in the James Bond thriller "Thunderball". Colonel Joseph Ryan (Sinatra) is nicknamed "Von Ryan" as he initially appears to be collaborating with their captors. Ryan is very optimistic and continually sees opportunity in every situation. Major Eric Fincham, played by Trevor Howard, is a pessimist, and sees disaster at every turn. Further, these two men are in conflict because Major Fincham was the ranking POW until Frank Sinatra was captured.
As the Allies appear to be threatening the region, the Italians guarding the prison leave, and suddenly the POWs have a chance to escape. Their escape is short-lived as they are soon re-captured by Germans. The POWs are placed into boxcars for transport to Germany, with the exception of the wounded, who are executed by German soldiers prior to the train's departure.
As the train travels to Germany, Ryan decides that there may be an opportunity for escape. Ryan leads the creation of a plan to eliminate the guards and take over the train, with the goal of eventually leaving the train to head for the coast and potential reunion with Allied forces. After taking over the train, the POWs first attempt to escape is thwarted when they find themselves in the middle of an Allied bombing mission. The POWs then develop an even more creative plan to escape to Switzerland. In their bid to escape the POWs must fight off the Luftwaffe and a Nazi-led troop train following close behind. The end of this movie will keep action war-movie fans on the edge of their seat until the credits roll.
There are several events in this movie that give depth to Ryan's character. Several events occur within the prison camp, such as when Ryan leads the men in burning all their clothes in order to get better clothing. Another is when Ryan supercedes Fincham in dealing with the prison commander after departure of the guards. Ryan twice saves people and twice the outcome is tragic. The first time Fincham is extremely critical of Ryan. The second time Fincham is sympathetic, but Ryan is so angry with himself he refuses to listen.
Ryan is generally optimistic and idealistic, which has often been a criticism of Americans by Europeans. On the other hand, Fincham is pessimistic and would consider himself to be a realist. These two approaches and views are compared throughout the movie, and ultimately the movie avoids answering the question as to whether one approach is better than the other. As the end of the movie approaches, it is clear that Ryan's faith in his optimism and idealism has been shaken. Similarly, Fincham has come to admire Ryan's optimism and idealism, and knows that the opportunity presented to the POWs was only as a result of Ryan's optimism. Ultimately, the movie suggests that perhaps the middle ground is the best.
This movie is one of the better war movies from the 50s and 60s, and along with "The Great Escape", is one of the very best POW prison escape movies. Certainly portions of the movie are unrealistic. However, look past the fictionalized account of the escape, watch the adventure, and observe the conflict of ideologies. An enjoyable to watch and well-done movie.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best WWII Movie,
This review is from: Von Ryan's Express [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film gets my vote for the best WWII movie ever! It's got Trevor Howard as the penultimate crazy British colonel, and our man Frank as the no nonsense American Flying ace. The characters bring out interesting facts about the Italian Cooperation with the Germans (very half-hearted) during wwII and the sense of frustration and uncertainty during the closing days of the war on the part of all the countries involved. This film represents the sense of honor and integrity that were common among soldiers, at that time, and how human beings can have odd interpratations of these noble character traits.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Escaping? Why Not Take the Train?,
A lot of effort went into this 1965 military war film classic. Now you do not have to wait for the movie on American Movie Classics to see it in wide-screen. This DVD version was released in Summer 2001. Frank Sinatra, playing the part of a downed American pilot, leads hundreds of POWs on a dash for the Swiss frontier in this action packed movie. Most of the action takes place on a hijacked Italian train, formerly commanded by the German military, as it winds its way ever deeper into enemy territory.
Trevor Howard and Edward Mulhare (Known best for his roles in American television shows such as The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Knight Rider)co-star. Also, look for Wolfgang Preis reprising the role of a German officer for the un-teenth time in his long career (The Longest Day, Anzio, Raid on Rommel, A Bridge Too Far, Battle of the Commandos, The Train, Is Paris Burning?, Ike the War Years, etc.).
The story, either incidentally or accidentally, mirrors several actual events that took place at abandoned Italian POW camps after the armistice. The Italian guards quit their posts and Allied prisoners awoke to find no one minding the camp. The Germans eventually moved in to establish authority, but in the few interim days there was a power vacuum. Though the real life stories never involved stealing trains, there are dozens of stories of weakened and malnourished British and Commonwealth former POWs fleeing the approaching Germans.
The film has nonstop action, train chases, aerial attacks and scenic Italian locations. According to an article by Wolfgang Preis, the interior train scenes were filmed in Hollywood. Actor James Brolin, who was under contract to 20th Century Fox, makes yet another appearance in a FOX movie. According to the unofficial Hogan's Heroes guide, the leather jacket (or jackets) worn by Frank Sinatra in the film were later worn by Bob Crane on HOGAN'S HEROES.
Action footage from VON RYAN'S EXPRESS has found its way into other films. Most notably are scenes from the Messerschmitt attacks on the train. In 1980 a television movie, THE SECRET WAR OF JACKIE'S GIRLS, featured the VON RYAN Messerschmitt footage poorly edited into scenes of a helicopter evading German aircraft. Twentieth Century Fox was famous for recycling spectacular movie scenes into other theatrical and television films. Remember how often attack scenes from TORA, TORA, TORA were found their way into movies like PEARL, MIDWAY, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, and the televison remake of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. Battle scenes from Patton also found their way into FIREBALL FORWARD and IKE: THE WAR YEARS.
Curiously both the antagonists and protaganists are armed with German MP-40 machine pistols. An actual MP-40 could empty its 32-round magazine in about three seconds. The shooters in this film have machine pistols with unlimited ammunition. Oh well, that's Hollywood.
For 35 years those of us who were not around, too young, or too indifferent to catch this movie when it was first released in theaters were left at a disadvantage. Growing up in the greater New York area, VON RYANS EXPRESS was only available as a yearly installment on the WABC afternoon movie, broadcast in two parts on consecutive days, or on the ever rarer late night showing. Cable stations aired VON RYAN'S EXPRESS more often, but still in standard format. With the release of the DVD you now have the opportunity to watch the film in all of its widescreen glory.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robson's film gives us the necessary thrills to be pleased...,
Sinatra is a cool American, whose P-38 is shot down over Italy in August 1943... The Allies were landing in Southern Italy, when Ryan is brought to an Italian prisoner of war camp...
Sensing that the end is underway, the Italians were trying to get out of the war, and the Nazis were trying to keep the Allies out and the Italians in...
A Fascist bully (Adolfo Celi) has ruled the POW camp, but with the collapse of Italian rule, he is thrown out...
The British prisoners - professional soldiers of the 9th Fusiliers, whose constant attempts to escape have led to half rations and the withholding of medicine - headed by a heated Major (Trevor Howard), are not in agreement with the unpopular pilot, Colonel Joseph Ryan... They think him insufficiently hostile to the Italians and have given an insulting 'von" to his name, insisting that he is in the wrong army...
The British get along with Ryan, however, when the escape is engineered... They seize a German train, and, impersonating German troops even as they evade German pursuers, try to make a run for it to the Swiss border... The viewers can forget about realism from that moment on... 'Von Ryan's Express' is pure adventure and courts no moral dilemmas in its story...
Director Mark Robson tries to combine the suspense of 'The Great Escape' with the exciting action of 'The Guns of Navarone,' and he's successful enough... The pace is quick... The Italian locations are attractive... The confrontations with German troops are well handled...
Ryan is a pragmatic character not unlike the far more tragic Col. Nicholson in 'The Bridge on the River Kwai.' As a colonel master-minding commando raids, he brings the film to a great climax on an Alpine viaduct...
With the exception of a strange and shocking scene where a sexy escapee is gunned down in the back, ' Von Ryan's Express' gives us the necessary thrills to be pleased...
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel Turns into Mediocre Movie,
One of the first books that I read as a teenager (that wasn't off the juvenile shelves) was "Von Ryan's Express" by David Westheimer. It was a best seller at the time and I soon discovered why. The key to the book was the extensive middle where the Allied prisoners take over a transport train one car at a time. It was a very suspenseful and engrossing story of one-on-one, hand to hand combat with everything at stake. Each of something like 22 cars is depicted with a writer's skill. When the movie came out, I went to see it with a friend. As the first railroad car was taken, I leaned over to him and said, "This is where it really gets exciting". Low and behold, after taking two or three cars, the prisoners jump all the guards at the next stop. So much for my expectations.
The thing is, this probably is a pretty good movie. I note the high ratings others have given it so I don't want to be overly negative. It's more of a walk down memory lane that prompted me to write this review. This was the movie that taught me what many others have said: With few exceptions, the book is always significantly better than the movie. If you like this movie, read the book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War Movie Buffs MUST See This!!!,
First of all, I'm only 19 years old and part of the new-age technology generation; yet I can't get enough of this movie. Sinatra and his supporting cast are truly unbelievable in this suspense-filled drama about a bunch of POW's trying to run north to escape Italian and Nazi control.
If you haven't seen it on American Movie Classics, then chances are you haven't seen this movie in decades. Since I'm still relatively young, AMC has been the only source for my own personal viewing of Von Ryan's Express...But not anymore. Trust me people, you won't regret this purchase. ...
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting World War II Adventure Story With Frank Sinatra And Trevor Howard In Fine Form,
The classic 1965 war story "Von Ryan's Express", based on the successful novel by David Westheimer would have to be one of my favourite World War II movies combining as it does all the necessary elements essential in such a story compelling viewing. We are treated throughout the films running time to plenty of well staged action sequences, exciting "close calls", for the lead actors, excellent photography and special effects along with enough character development to make you care about the characters involved. Frank Sinatra once again proves that he was that rare creation; a singer who was also a most capable actor and in "Von Ryan's Express", he has one of his best roles as the American POW who orchestrates a daring escape plan from German occupied Italy by highjacking a train transporting prisoners to Germany. Teamed here with veteran British actor Trevor Howard the pair work superbly together creating alot of the inner conflict in the story as the pair, although on the same side, repeatedly lock horns over the best approach to take in their escape plan while developing a deep respect for each other in the process. War movies don't come much more exciting than this one and combined with some of the most breathtaking photography shot on location in Italy, you have the perfect combination for a thrilling edge of the seat viewing experience.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sinatra leads POWs in a daring escape by train,
Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard butt heads with each other while taking on the Nazis in this satisfying World War II film. The first part of "Von Ryan's Express" takes place in an Italian Prisoner of War camp in 1943, when the Allies had invaded Southern Italy and Germany was trying to keep Italy in the war. When Colonel Ryan (Sinatra) arrives at the camp he is the senior officer, although he is just a pilot and Major Fincham (Howard) is a career officer. Ryan wants to just wait for the Allies to liberate the camp, while Fincham wants to escape. When Ryan trades the prisoner's escape route for medical supplies, the English prisoners add the "von" to his name. When the Italians abandon the camp, the prisoners escape into the country side only to be captured by the Nazis. They then capture a German train and make a daring and exciting run for the Swiss border and freedom, believing that if only one of them escapes, it is a victory.
Not as compelling as "The Great Escape," this is still a very entertaining film. The scene where Ryan forces the Italian commandant (Adolfo Celi) to provide new clothing because the prisoners have all stripped and thrown their rags into a fire is certainly memorable, as is the moment when Ryan guns down the young woman (Raffaella Carra) who has sold them out to the Germans. Sergio Fantoni as the sympathetic Italian Captain Oriani and Edward Mulhare as the German-speaking Chaplain Costanzo have solid supporting roles. Half the movie is taken up by the train chase, which goes through cities being bomb and along treacherous mountain tracks, but the heated exchanges between Ryan and Fincham are at the heart of this film. Sinatra is remarkably comfortable with this role, which is ultimately what makes "Von Ryan's Express" work as much as the train chase.
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Von Ryan's Express by Mark Robson (DVD - 2001)
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