Friday, July 29, 2011

Von Ryan's Express

The Fox Movie Channel has been showing Von Ryan's Express several times over the past few months, and I've been meaning to blog about it for some time. It's coming up again tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM, so now might be a good time to blog about it.

Frank Sinatra stars as Col. Joseph Ryan, an American pilot who gets shot down over Italy during World War II. He's taken to a POW camp run by a particularly brutal prison commander, who's keeping the Red Cross packages from the POWs, and other such fun stuff. The commanding officer of the POWs is Maj. Fincham, played by Trevor Howard. He's British, as are most of the prisoners in the camp. However, he's also outranked by the colonel, which means that Ryan is made the new CO of the POWs, something which ticks off a lot of the people in the camp, who take to calling him "von Ryan". This is especially true when Ryan starts using his power in ways the soldiers who have been POWs much longer don't like.

Eventually, though, Ryan comes up with a plan for all of them to escape. Sadly, the plan backfires, and the POWs are put on prison trains bound for a camp presumably in Germany. What is a bunch of POWs to do? Well, the answer should be obvious: resist by taking over the train, and trying to direct the train to neutral Switzerland! Sure, this is a daft idea that has no real shot of working, but this is also a movie! Try suspending reality for a bit!

At this point, Von Ryan's Express becomes a relatively standard by-the-numbers World War II adventure movie of the sort that was being made throughout the 1960s. The movies are entertaining; nice to look at because of the color, the wide screen photography, and European shooting; and full of explosions for people who like that sort of thing in their movies. A lot of such movies are not particularly great, but more than passable, and Von Ryan's Express fits right in with the rest of them.

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