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Night Train to Munich (Gestapo) Reviews

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flixsterman
flixsterman

Super Reviewer

February 4, 2009
A bit methodical in its presentation but still a classic rendering of intrigue and high drama. Rex Harrison and Paul Henreid are superb!
Michael G

Super Reviewer

April 17, 2007
Night Train to Munich has its moments but its generally pretty dull. Margaret Lockwood helped keep me interested but outside of the nifty miniature-based finale, the comic relief and the irony of seeing Victor Laszlo play a Nazi, I wasn't exactly enthralled. Night Train to Munich isn't exactly awful but I can't for the life of my figure out why there's a Criterion edition of this.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

December 6, 2007
A lot of fun, but not quite as good as Lady Vanishes. Chalders and Caldicott are AWESOME!
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

June 27, 2010
this is a spin-off of the lady vanishes by the same writers and even includes the humorous english travelers chalders and caldicott, as well as leading lady margaret lockwood albeit as a different character. one of the more successful attempts at pulling off hitchcock style lighthearted adventure. rex harrison is charming and hilarious in one of his first leading roles. the film's title was changed from gestapo for obvious reasons. it was the last fun british film made about the conflict for some time. there's no doubt the plot gets somewhat outlandish. still worth checking out for fans of the original
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

November 17, 2010
Decent older film. Wasn't quite my type of thing, but really couldn't find fault with it. May be a little dated for some tastes, it was for me, though I could appreciate it.
Alec B

Super Reviewer

January 26, 2013
Sure its basically a propaganda film, but a thrilling and entertaining one. Rex Harrison's stoic, witty secret agent is a great character.
April 27, 2012
Rex Harrison's great, but it's an action movie, and the older the action movie, the less thrilling the action.
Turfseer
August 12, 2010
'B' picture still wins points as piece of World War II history

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The best part of 'Night Train to Munich' is the inciting incident which leads to the Act 2 machinations involving Rex Harrison's Dickie Randall, the naval officer masquerading as music hall entertainer, Gus Bennett. Czech scientist and armor-plating expert, Axel Bomasch. is whisked away to England, right before the Nazis march in, but his daughter Anna (Margaret Lockwood) is left behind and ends up in a concentration camp. She befriends Paul Marsen, who at first appears to be a Czech political prisoner (played by Paul Henreid, famous for his Viktor Laszlo role in 'Casablanca'). Na´ve Anna doesn't realize that the escape from the concentration cap is manufactured and that Marsen is actually a member of the Gestapo.

Somehow, Randall and his fellow intelligence operatives, can't seem to figure out that the Germans have already deduced the location of Bomasch or the fact that Marsen is a double agent. Instead of killing Bomasch, the Germans merely knock him out and whisk Axel and Anna back to Germany in a U-boat. Wouldn't you know it but Randall's superiors have no objections to allowing him to go to Germany and try and save the kidnapped Czechs. Since he's spent three years in Germany, he supposedly can speak the language and pretend that he's a high level Army Engineer. Incredibly, he easily gains access to Anna and her father after producing forged paperwork which is not closely examined by the bumbling Germans. Randall pretends that he formerly was involved with Anna and convinces the Germans (including the skeptical Gestapo double agent) that he might be able to convince Anna to help change her father's mind about the Nazis. A wrench is thrown into Randall's plan to spirit Anna and her father out of Germany when he learns that the Nazis have gotten orders from headquarters to immediately bring the Czechs to Munich.

While on the train, we're introduced to the same self-involved Englishmen, Charters and Caldicott, who also appeared as the same characters in Hitchcock's 'The Lady Vanishes'. Charters blows Randall's cover when he asks Randall if he's the same person who he knew as an undergraduate at Oxford. According to one sagacious internet poster, Charters and Caldicott are not dolts but rather represent those Englishmen who chose to remain ignorant about the goings-on in Europe prior to the outbreak of the war. That's why the most important thing to Caldicott about "Mein Kampf" is that it's used as a marital aid by German women. It's only after a German soldier orders Charters and Calidcott to grovel before them, that they become galvanized and decide to 'join the cause' and help Randall.

I'm unable to speak very highly about the climax of 'Night Train to Munich'. How is Randall able to subdue Henreid's Gestapo man without making any noise inside the train cabin? And how do Charters and Caldicott subdue two German soldiers and bring them back to the same cabin without being noticed? How do they so easily remove the solders' uniforms and put them on, also without making any noise? And what about the long car ride from Munich to Switzerland? Did you ever hear the word, 'roadblock'? During the shootout from the cable car, Rex Harrison seems to fire about 30 bullets when it appears he's carrying a gun that probably can fire only six cartridges. Finally, our Gestapo guy doesn't seem that badly wounded which would prevent him from dragging himself up to the cable controls and stopping the cable car from reaching the other side.

You can catch 'Night Train' in a newly restored version from the Criterion Collection. The only extra is commentary from so-called film scholars Peter Evans and Bruce Babington. Unfortunately, Evans and Babington fail to make even one critical point regarding this film as they regard it as some kind of masterpiece. Given its slew of implausibilities, a masterpiece it is not.

The film was very highly regarded in the US when it was released here in 1940. For its time, it was a highly effective piece of propaganda which helped convince Americans that Britain's war against Germany was just. The English, with their laid back "business as usual" attitude is nicely contrasted with the unscrupulous and menacing behavior of both the German Army/security apparatus and bureaucracy. A great deal of credit must be given to Paul Henreid as the sinister Gestapo agent. Unlike some of the other German/Nazi characters in the film, he's actually quite scary (as he should be). From a modern sensibility, Rex Harrison's casual acting demeanor coupled with the absolute ease in which his character outwits his opponents, relegates 'Night Train to Munich' to the realm of the 'B' picture. But as a piece of World War II history, 'Night Train' is well worth viewing at least once.
gillianren
July 3, 2012
Beginnings Are Uncertain Times

The sad thing is that there were doubtless plenty of people caught on vacations in Germany at the beginning of World War II, no matter whose standards of "beginning" you're looking at. At least World War I wasn't building up in quite the same way; while it was arguably building up for decades, there wasn't the same pattern of events, and a person could reasonably be taken by surprise by how things fell apart after Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination. At the point at which Our Story begins, the only thing preventing the UK from joining World War II was the German invasion of Poland--our story actually begins with the invasion of Czechoslovakia. A sensible person might think that it would be best for things to settle down before visiting, but the beginning and end of this story are a mere six months apart. And, yes, we have dopey British tourists in Germany. At the time this movie was released, you could probably find at least one or two American tourists there.

It is March of 1939, and Prague is invaded by the Germans. Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt) is smuggled out of the country by his employers, but before his daughter, Anna (Margaret Lockwood), is able to follow him, she is arrested by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp. In the camp, one Karl Marsen (Paul Henreid with his name misspelled) helps her escape and gets her to London. Naturally, it's a ploy; they've barely gotten settled in under the protection of Dickie Randall, aka Gus Bennett (and Rex Harrison either way), when Marsen and his SS colleagues recapture her and take her father along. Dickie volunteers to go to Germany, posing as an engineer named Herzog, and smuggle the Bomasches out of Germany again. They are recognized on the train by Caldicott (Naunton Wayne), an upper class twit who previously appeared in [i]The Lady Vanishes[/i] and who is traveling with his compatriot from that movie, Charters (Basil Radford).

In a way, those two upper class twits are the most interesting part of the movie. Yes, I find it ludicrous and frustrating that anyone would be so foolish as to go traveling in Germany in the summer of 1939. Basil Radford actually saw combat in World War I; Naunton Wayne was too young. But the point is that, for the first part of their appearance in this movie, they are stubborn and fussy and more concerned about golf clubs than the outbreak of war. But when their national pride is tweaked, and when they really feel their country needs them, they are much more brave than anyone might expect them to be. Oh, not as brave as Rex Harrison's character, whatever name he's going by at the moment, but they go above and beyond the mere "get out of Germany if you can" attitude men of their age might be expected to show. It is, in short, the time for all good men to go to the aid of their country, and these are good men. Perhaps the point of the movie is that they are all good men.

This was a curious time for film. This movie was British, one of the first British propaganda films of the new war. At the same time, it would have been a chancy time for releasing it in the US, because the US was still avowedly neutral. In fact, many of the American studios were afraid of releasing films which could not be released in Germany and the other Axis countries. They didn't want to lose the business. They also didn't want to be seen as trying to push the US into war with Germany, because many of the studio owners were Jewish. (There are interesting economic and sociological reasons for this which I will not go into here.) They were determined to seem like good Americans, and at the time, it seemed as though "good American" meant "isolationist." It was much more complicated than that, but it would not be simply the other way for nearly a year after the film would be released in the United States.

This may be why the film had three names. In addition to [i]Night Train to Munich[/i] and [i}Gestapo[/i], the two Rotten Tomatoes recognizes it, its Oscar nomination (for Original Story; it lost to [i]Here Comes Mr. Jordan[/i]) went to [i]Night Train[/i]. I will also point out that, despite the fact that the gunfire at the end of the movie comes from directly in front of Rex Harrison, the bullet holes appear in the side of the tram. (I suppose that's a spoiler, but it's also on the poster.) This is mostly just interesting as a piece of film history, though it's not that bad of a film qua film. The movie came out almost a year to the day after the final events of its story, right in the middle of the Battle of Britain. This was when the nation needed a boost the most, I'd judge, and this wasn't a bad film to provide that boost. It isn't the highlight of British Cinema of World War II, but it isn't a bad little movie for all that. Certainly I've seen far worse propaganda pieces, both from that era and otherwise.
David W.
July 2, 2010
Lovers of classic movies gotta check this one out! Director Carol Reed (The Third Man), & writers Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder (THE LADY VANISHES). A funny thriller about the lead up to WWII.
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