Released 1940 (USA)
British, in English
Director – Carol Reed
Stars – Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul Henreid
When scientist Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt) and his beautiful daughter Anna (Margaret Lockwood) are taken prisoner by the Nazis after the fall of Czechoslovakia, it is up to British secret agent Gus Bennett (Rex Harrison) to save them.
In reality, the plot is a bit more complex than this, but to explain it further would mean that I’d be giving away spoilers.
Even in black & white, it’s pretty easy to tell that a lot of the “sets” are actually small-scale models with painted backdrops. It’s distracting.
A scene towards the end, set in and around the train of the title, between two British citizens goes on for way too long. I think it was supposed to be funny, playing up the whole “dithering” British person thing, but it fell a bit flat and grew dull.
An improbable ending that showcases what appear to be six-shooter guns dispensing endless rounds of bullets without any reloading. Those kinds of inconsistencies drive me nuts.
There’s a great twist toward the beginning that caught me completely off guard. Well done, movie!
It’s surprisingly, shockingly funny. I simply wasn’t expecting that. Some of my favorite moments that had me roaring with laughter [spoilers, I guess]:
- German soldier, in complete earnestness, “Any day now, Poland may provoke us into invading her in self-defense.”
- Anna, “But that seems far too simple - ” Gus, “I have a simple mind.”
- A random, throwaway scene between several German officers, trying to determine whether a letter in a document is an “f” or an “s.” This is perhaps only funny if you’re familiar with old-timey German script, wherein the “f”s do indeed look like “s”s.
A really solid movie. I loved the subject matter. I loved the Brits poking fun at the Nazis. (It was filmed at the beginning of what they didn’t even know yet would prove to be a very long and deadly war.) The nitpicks I have with it didn’t really detract from the movie too badly, except for perhaps that long train scene. All in all, it gave me far too many laughs for me to be too harsh of a critic.