Not Quite Up To Par

Sax von Stroheim writes:

Night Train to Munich (Carol Reed, 1940)


This isn’t a bad movie, but it suffers a bit because it isn’t a great movie, either, and it brings to mind too many other movies that are great (or nearly great): Hitchcock’s British work (especially The Lady Vanishes, to which it acts as a kind of sequel/remake), Michael Powell’s wartime pictures (especially The Spy in Black, which has more interesting characters), Fritz Lang’s contemporary espionage thrillers (especially Man Hunt, which has a more fully-formed film style), and the better movies Carol Reed would go on to make. This last is the worst of all, because Night Train lacks the kind of poetic/cinematic expression of the characters’ psychology that’s so central to Reed’s best work (the run of four movies from Odd Man Out to Outcast of the Islands). Here Reed is just playing at being Hitchcock, and while it isn’t a terrible impersonation, nothing in the movie gave me the sense that his heart was in it. I did enjoy the movie’s special effects: the climactic sequence is set on a gondola, and  its quite nicely put together with rear projection shots and shots using a model.

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3 Responses to Not Quite Up To Par

  1. Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

    I didn’t like it much either — or at least I didn’t when I saw it about 8 years ago. I do love “The Spy in Black,” though. Also that other Powell one dealing with the London blackouts — is it called “Contraband”?


    • Sax von Stroheim says:

      Yeah – that one is “Contraband”, titled as “Blackout” on its US release. I think both of those movies are terrific.


  2. Thanks for the review. I’ve always wondered what this one is like — I do enjoy a good Carol Reed movie. Sounds like I can let this one pass …


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