Night Train to Munich (1940)


(director: Carol Reed; screenwriters: from the book Report on a Fugitive by Gordon Wellesley/Sidney Gilliat/Frank Launder; cinematographer: Otto Kanturek; editor: R.E. Dearing; music: Louis Levy; cast: Margaret Lockwood (Anna Bomasch), Rex Harrison (Gus Bennett), Paul Henreid (Karl Marsen), Basil Radford (Charters), Naunton Wayne (Caldicott), James Harcourt (Axel Bomasch), Felix Aylmer (Dr. John Fredericks), Raymond Huntley (Kampenfeldt), C.V. France (Adm. Hassinger), Eliot Makeham (Schwab); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward Black; 20th Century Fox; 1940-UK)
“A good mix of comedy and adventure.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Carol Reed (“The Third Man”) was inspired by Hitchcock’s successful The Lady Vanishes, and borrowed both of that film’s writers (Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder) and its oddball cricket obsessed fans comic duo (Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne) to create this most entertaining wartime spy thriller. Reed’s thriller appears to be a good imitation, but the director doesn’t have the Master’s same light touch or penchant for bizarre comedy. It’s based on the novel Report on a Fugitive by Gordon Wellesley.

“Munich” is set in September of 1939, just as the Nazis invade Czechoslovakia. Armor-plating inventor Dr Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt) flees to England by plane, but his daughter Anna (Margaret Lockwood) gets arrested and is sent to a concentration camp just outside of Prague. There she’s befriended by prisoner Karl Marsen (Paul Henreid), and he arranges for their escape to England. She doesn’t realize it was an organized escape so the Nazis can get her to lead them to her father and that Marsen is a Nazi agent. When Nazi agents in England capture both father and daughter at their resort retreat, crack British undercover intelligence agent Gus Bennett (Rex Harrison) dons a disguise as a German major in an Engineering Corps and comes to their aid by infiltrating the German high-command. Bennett must rescue them before their train reaches Munich. Also accompanying the prisoners is Marsen.

Bennett displays courage and fast-thinking, as he engineers their escape with help from two English train passengers (Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne). In an official German car, the escapees head for the Swiss border. There they all reach freedom due to Bennett’s heroics of holding off the pursuing Marsen and the other Nazis in a car-cable gunfight overlooking the Swiss Alps.

There’s a good mix of comedy and adventure, and all the performers do a fine job. The film also does a decent job of dishing out propaganda for the wartime Brit audience to take heart in.