Night Train to Munich

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Night Train to Munich
Night Train to Munich Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Carol Reed
Produced by Edward Black
Screenplay by
Based on Report on a Fugitive 
by Gordon Wellesley
Starring
Music by Louis Levy
Cinematography Otto Kanturek
Edited by R.E. Dearing
Production
company
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 31 August 1940 (1940-08-31) (UK)
  • 29 December 1940 (1940-12-29) (USA)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Night Train to Munich is a 1940 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the novel Report on a Fugitive by Gordon Wellesley, the film is about an inventor and his daughter who are kidnapped by the Gestapo after the Nazis march into Prague in the prelude to World War II. A British secret service agent follows them, disguised as a senior German army officer pretending to woo the daughter over to the Nazi cause.[1]

Plot[edit]

As German forces invade Prague in March 1939, Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt), a Czech scientist working on a new process for armour-plating, is able to escape with Allied support and is flown to England. Bomasch's daughter, Anna (Margaret Lockwood), is arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where she is interrogated by the Nazis who are looking for her father. Anna refuses to cooperate. Soon she is befriended by a fellow Czech prisoner named Karl Marsen (Paul Henreid), who says he is a teacher imprisoned for his political views. Together they are able to escape and make their way to London. Anna does not know that Marsen is in fact a Gestapo agent working for the Nazis—assigned to gain Anna's trust and follow her to England to locate her father.

Following advice from Marsen, Anna places a cryptic advertisement in a newspaper to contact her father and let him know she is in the country. Soon after, she gets an anonymous phone call with instructions to leave for the town of Brightbourne. As instructed, she does not tell Marsen about the phone call or the upcoming meeting. In Brightbourne, Anna secretly meets Dickie Randall (Rex Harrison), an English intelligence officer working undercover as an entertainer named Gus Bennett. Randall takes Anna to her father, who is now working for the Royal Navy at the Dartford naval base. Weary of the security restrictions placed on her, Anna argues with Randall, wanting to contact Marsen, on whom she has a crush.

Soon after, Marsen arranges the kidnapping of Anna and her father, and brings them back to Germany on a U-boat. Heartbroken to learn Marsen's true identity, Anna is outraged when he threatens to put her in a concentration camp if Bomasch refuses to work for the Nazis. Meanwhile, Randall initiates a bold plan to rescue the Bomasches. He travels to Germany and infiltrates the German high command posing as an engineer named Major Ulrich Herzog. He convinces Captain Prada and Admiral Hassinger that he was Anna's former lover and can persuade her to help effect her father's co-operation with the Nazis. Randall arranges to spend the night with Anna in a hotel, planning to escape while accompanying the Bomasches to Munich. The next morning Marsen, who is jealous of Randall, insists on escorting them on the train to Munich.

Randall's escape plans are further complicated at the railway station, where he is recognised by a former classmate named Caldicott (Naunton Wayne), who is leaving Germany with his friend Charters (Basil Radford). Caldicott, who recognises Randall from their days at Balliol College, Oxford, is made suspicious by Randall's Nazi uniform and the fact that he is reluctant to acknowledge him. He is even more suspicious when the train is temporarily stopped, and he and Charters overhear Marsen confer with his headquarters. Marsen's superiors agree to investigate and call him back. Charters, attempting to use another telephone, overhears the return call confirming there is no Major Herzog. Marsen arranges to have Randall arrested when they arrive in Munich. Caldicott and Charters realize that Randall is some kind of undercover agent who must be in grave danger now that his identity has been discovered.

The two Englishmen decide to help their fellow countryman. They stow away on the train and make contact with Randall once the train has left. Caldicott and Charters inform him of the danger he's in and agree to help him. Caldicott slips a warning to Randall, who is thus prepared when Marsen pulls out a gun and ends the charade just before they reach Munich. Charters and Caldicott overpower first the two guards, then Marsen. After swapping uniforms with Marsen, Randall manages to get a car. Along with Charters and Caldicott, they make a break for neutral Switzerland. They are pursued by Marsen and his men to the Swiss border. They drive up a mountain road to a cable car. Randall manages to fend off the Nazi soldiers while Anna and the others escape on an aerial tram. Randall shoots Marsen in the leg, and leaps onto the tram on its way into Switzerland and neutral territory. Randall and Anna acknowledge their feelings for one another and embrace.

Cast[edit]

Comparison to The Lady Vanishes[edit]

The film has been compared to The Lady Vanishes, with the Princeton academic Michael Wood describing it as an "ironic remake";[2] the publicity at the time of release erroneously claimed it is a sequel.[3] It has a similar situation in a war torn continental Europe, and both have scripts by Launder and Gilliat. The two slightly eccentric and cricket-mad English travellers, Charters and Caldicott, are carried over. The films are otherwise similar in setting, and both feature similar lead character types: the clever young woman in distress and eccentric upper-class Englishman, manifesting in the first film as Iris (played by Margaret Lockwood) and Gilbert, and in the second as Anna Bomasch (also played by Lockwood) and Dickie Randall.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Night Train to Munich (1940)". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  2. ^ Michael Wood "At the Movies: Odd Man Out", London Review of Books, 28:20, 19 October 2006, p.16
  3. ^ Trevor Hogg "A Great Reed: A Carol Reed Profile (Part 1)", Flickering Myth, 21 October 2009

External links[edit]