Review: Two World War II movies that stand up to the test of time
Pop Culture Released - Mar 27, 2020
These two movies also feature leading men before they were iconic stars: Rex Harrison and Humphrey Bogart
"Night Train to Munich" (1940)
Has all the makings of a Hitchcockian suspense thriller, from his years as a British filmmaker. Indeed, the film is a sequel (sort of) to Hitchcock's 1938 classic, "The Lady Vanishes" which starred beguiling leading lady Margaret Lockwood. Lockwood (as Anna Bomasch) reprises her role as a lady in peril. This time she's pursued by Nazis who are out to kidnap her Polish scientist father Axel Bomasch (played by James Harcourt) and deliver him to German industrialists to apply his particular talents to the German war effort. The scriptwriters are Frank Launder and Sydney Gilliat, the very gents who wrote "The Lady Vanishes." Back too as comic relief are actors Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford (who also appeared in "The Lady Vanishes"). They trade quips and bumble and stumble their way midway into the story. Dressed as a couple of Gestapo agents they help Anna and her father escape the Nazis while on the night train to Munich. The director is not Alfred Hitchcock but Carol Reed (who also directed "The Third Man"). The leading man is a very young (and very charming) Rex Harrison who, disguised as a German army officer, helps direct Anna's escape from a German double-agent (Paul Henreid, playing against type). The climax takes place high in the Alps on an arial tramway that transports Anna and her father from Germany to Switzerland with help from Harrison, who after a shootout that kills Henreid, escapes to freedom and into the arms of Lockwood. That Lockwood and Harrison will hook up is obvious from the start–no suspense there. The suspense rather is reserved for the tramway crossing, which makes for an exciting and satisfying ending.
This is a movie that was made before Humphrey Bogart met Lauren Bacall. It's a buddy movie featuring a cast of quirky characters who are caught up in a desert war against superior Nazi forces. It's a battle of survival, where water is the commodity being fought over. Bogie and his ragtag army buddies protect a dry well that deep below ground trickles barely enough water to keep them alive. The Nazis are desperate for water too, unaware that the water supply is sorely limited. A battle ensues in which an errant Nazi shell manages to land inside the well shaft, where it explodes resulting in a gush of water to overflow the surface. At the same time the Nazi foot soldiers defy their commanders and surrender to Bogie's small, but determined band of buddies, and are rewarded with as much water as they can drink. Keeping his head against overwhelming odds, Bogie is rewarded with the capture of a large Nazi force that he turns over to his superiors upon return to the American base. It's a small but crucial victory in the opening days of World War II that portends a larger victory for the Allies in the days ahead.
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