Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Maybe they should have taken the 3:10 to Yuma instead

Tomorrow morning (July 30) at 6:00 AM ET, the Fox Movie Channel is airing the nifty little thriller Night Train To Munich.

The movie was released in 1940, after the start of World War II in Europe, but is set in the year leading up to World War II. Hitler wanted the Sudetenland in the autumn of 1938, and annexed the rest of the Bohemian and Moravian lands in Czechoslovakia in early 1939 (Slovakia was turned into a puppet state). This was a disaster for the Czech people and, in the case of this movie, specifically a scientist who knew about metal alloys that the Germans wanted information on. He's able to escape to Britain with the help of British agent Rex Harrison, but his daughter (Margaret Lockwood) is arrested and taken to a concentration camp. She's able to escape, though, with the help of a fellow prisoner who befriended her (played by Paul Henried), and the two of them also set off for Britain.

Lockwood meets up with her father and quickly falls in love with Rex Harrison, now seen in his front job as a carnival singer at one of the pier attractions on the southern English shore. Henried goes his merry way -- which in this case is straight to the Nazis in Britain. Henried was, in fact, a double agent working for the Third Reich, and Lockwood's "escape" from the concentration camp was actually part of a fiendish plot to get her to lead the Nazis to her father so that they could kidnap both and return them to Nazi Germany.

This plan succeeds and, when Harrison discovers what's happened, he realizes it's up to him to disguise himself as a Nazi officer, and make his way into Germany to capture the scientist and his daughter back in order to return them to freedom. Harrison gets to Berlin and finds his man, although getting everybody back out of Germany is going to be decidedly more difficult, with the result being an extended train ride (the titular Night Train to Munich) followed by a mad dash to the border, along the lines of The Lady Vanishes.

In fact, Night Train to Munich and The Lady Vanishes share quite a few things in common. Margaret Lockwood is the female lead in both (although she's a much smaller character in Night Train to Munich); the writers are the same people; and the characters of Charters and Caldicott, who provided a lot of comic relief in The Lady Vanishes when they were more worried about cricket results than what was going on around them, retunr here. This time, though, they get to do something more substantial, when they accidentally overhear the intrigue that's going on amongst the British and Nazi spies.

Night Train to Munich is a lot of fun and, at only 90 minutes, doesn't really have the time ever to get dull (especially in the action-packed second half). Amazingly, it doesn't seem to have been released to DVD.

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