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.