Monday, November 21, 2011

Another of those little early 1950s MGM flicks

I don't think I've mentioned Terror on a Train before. It's airing tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM on TCM, and unlike Jeopardy, it doesn't seem to be available on DVD, so you're going to have to watch the TCM showing.

Glenn Ford stars as Major Lyncourt, a Canadian army bomb disposal expert who just happens to be in Birmingham, England. That's good for the authorities, because they get a call telling them that there's been a bomb placed aboard a shipment of sea mines going by train from Birmingham to the naval base in Portsmouth. The authorities know about Maj. Lyncourt's expertise, and know he's available, so it's only natural that they call him in to find the bomb aboard the cargo train and defuse it before it goes off at 7:00 AM the next morning. Lyncourt then spends most of the rest of the movie trying to find that bomb.

In some ways, that's all there is to the movie. But to be fair, there is rather a bit more going on on the side. The train started off in Birmingham, and was going to have to go through some rather populated areas on its journey to Portsmouth. Obviously, it would do no good to have the bomb go off in the middle of a populated area, so the authorities do the best they can and have the train shunted to a suburban siding. But even this suburban location has quite a bit of people, so the police are going to have to do a mass evacuation. There's also a problem for the good major with his wife (Anne Vernon), who's really grown tired of his defusing bombs, and wants him to spend more time with her. Finally, the evacuation goes fairly well, except for one slightly dotty old man who loves trains and wants to be around them whenever he can. The problem, of course, being that this is one train he shouldn't get near.

On the bright side, the authorities catch the would-be bomber. That's good because it soon becomes clear that there's no way short of clear dumb luck that the major is going to find the bomb before the next morning. Perhaps they can impress upon the bomber that he should let the authorities defuse the bomb, and show them exactly where on the train it is so that they can defuse it. And what if he doesn't?

As I sais at the beginning, Terror on the Train is one of those small movies that MGM was making a lot of in the early 1950s. It's got a fairly big star in Ford, and a fairly sparse story, with a brief running time (about 73 minutes) to fit that spare story. That having been said, this is a sort of role that Glenn Ford was well-suited to play: essentially of good character but not too challenging. Ford by himself makes the movie worth watching, even if it's never going to get to the level of his more prestigious work like Gilda or 3:10 to Yuma.

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