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Archive for the ‘Roland Culver’ Category

Night Train To Munich

17 Dec

Night Train To Munich — Directed by Carol Reed. Boulevard Thriller. The daring rescue of an important Czech scientist brings his daughter and their rescuer into close shaves. 95 minutes Black and white 1940.

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Carol Reed directed four great films, all fairly early on in his career, and so I saw this to see if this early film of his would add itself to this category. It does not. The great films are The Fallen Idol, The Third Man, Odd Man Out, and the greatest of them all: The Outcast Of The Islands, a film that I have watched many times, each time adding to its mystery and power. Later on Reed directed big Hollywood films of no particular distinction of content, such as Oliver, which is a lot of fun, and Mutiny On The Bounty, which is an albatross. But this piece is a War Film. War Films tend to fall between two stools: propaganda to raise one’s spirits and a story to harrow them. This divided energy is apparent here, and is understandable. But Reed, who even here is a great technician, stalls the story with Basel Radford and Naunton Wayne, popular from The Lady Vanishes by the same screenwriters, in flat comic interludes whose pauses drain them of humor and dampen the momentum. And Reed also offers us a gunshot finale that beggars credulity. It stars the pretty and accessible Margaret Lockwood, and the mercilessly highfalutin Rex Harrison, who brings his mastery of querulous irritability to play three separate parts, none of them convincingly but all of them entertainingly. He’s not what we would call a responsive actor. Feed him a line and he will wait it out for the next opportunity to attack someone, at which he is a genius. He’s gin and bitters every time. He tips the picture into being a Boulevard Thriller, such as we later so enjoyed being led through by James Bond. Felix Aylmer and Roland Culver make us happy, as do all the British character actors on display. Brilliantly acerbic as a light comedian, Harrison is overshadowed in all his scenes by Paul Henried, who is really good as the antagonist. Watch Henried; look at his attention, his emotional foundation, and his carving of the character he plays into a believable human being, which Harrison, for all his personality, never is. Harrison was not a great actor but a great entertainer, and as such earns a high place in our admiration of human sacrifice. (The exposition by the biographers of Reed and the screenwriters is helpful, kind, and delightful.)

 

 
 
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