Wednesday, August 13, 2003


I agree with a couple of IMDb reviewers who think that this is actually a more interesting movie that the similarly themed THE THIRD MAN. Both are somewhat moody stories of post-war intrigue; the Carol Reed movie may have more depth, but this is much more fun to watch, and almost as effective. On a train from Paris to Frankfurt, a German who is supposed to be an important figure in the reconstruction of post-war Germany is assassinated, only it turns out that the killers got the decoy. The real diplomat (Paul Lukas) is temporarily safe, but later he is kidnapped and his secretary (Merle Oberon) gets a multinational group of passengers to help her and the Army search for him. The group includes Robert Ryan as the resourceful American, Robert Coote as the Brit, and Roman Toporov as the Russian (the one who is the most conflicted about joining in). Location shooting in Berlin and the ruins of Frankfurt add to the film's atmosphere. The opening section of the movie has too much spoken narration as exposition, but this gets better as the movie goes on. The scenes on the train are well shot; the main characters are all introduced as we see them enter their compartments through the windows. The group comes off a bit like a bunch of Hardy Boys, which is meant as a compliment here. There are good action scenes throughout, especially toward the end. There are also some nice Hitchcockian moments, one with a mind reader and a clown in a sinister nightclub, and one near the end as we see a character being strangled through a reflection in a train window as Ryan and Oberon, blithely unaware, continue chatting. Ultimately, Lukas's mission is successful, although we are left with some pessimism about the possibility of lasting peace. Jacques Tourneur directs with his usual understated flair. Highly recommended.

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