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extremely entertaining WWII adventure with Frank Sinatra leading a trainload of allied POW's...,
This review is from: Von Ryan's Express [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Set in Italy during World War II, Von Ryan's Express (1965) is pure `escapist' entertainment, as a group of liberated Allied POW's, commandeer a train, and attempt to sneak into Switzerland, before the German army discovers the truth and destroys them. While reality is stretched quite far, and it takes some time to build momentum, the film is quite exciting and dramatic, features some rather impressive battle scenes, and memorable ending, that reflects both triumph and tragedy.
Frank Sinatra stars as Colonel Joseph Ryan, an American fighter pilot who is shot down and taken to a POW camp, where as the ranking officer, he takes over command of a group of predominantly British prisoners. Sinatra had just finished another WW II drama, "None But The Brave (1965)" a film set on an island in the pacific, which was the only film that Sinatra ever directed.
Ryan's attitude is radically different from the English, as he looks to improve conditions for the men, and takes a dim view of escape. Seen as a sellout, the American is given the name "von Ryan" by Major Eric Fincham (Trevor Howard), the commander of the British contingent. Things change dramatically when Italy capitulates, and the Italian soldiers guarding the prisoners vanish. The British soldiers want to kill Major Battaglia (Adolfo Celli, Thunderball) the camp commander, but Ryan intercedes and spares his life, and act that will soon have dire consequences.
The prisoners leave the camp, but are soon captured by the German army, and put aboard a train bound for Germany. In a daring escape, the prisoners kill most of the German soldiers, take over the train, and then attempt to take the train through a series of checkpoints to the Swiss border. On the journey, there are a number of close calls, tense moments, and a tragic decision by Ryan.
Von Ryan's Express was based on a book of the same name, written by David Westheimer, an American flier who was actually held prisoner in the famous Stalag Luft III, the POW camp featured in The Great Escape (1963). Westheimer's original screenplay, was revised to create a more action oriented adventure tailored to suit Frank Sinatra's personality. The film's downbeat ending was something that Sinatra insisted on.
The Bluray contains the same bonus content from the two disc special edition released in 2007. This includes a commentary track, a featurette on legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith, trailers, TV spots and a still gallery. Featuring one of Frank Sinatra's stronger performances, Von Ryan's Express is a classic example of 60's moviemaking that takes you on a tense and thrilling ride, and leaves you breathless and stunned at the finish. The film has a strong international supporting cast that includes Edward Mulhare (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir), Raffaela Cara, Sergio Fantoni, Wolfgang Preis, and Vitto Scotti.