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Carol Reed
Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul Von Hernreid, Basil Radford, Naughton Wayne
Writing Credits:
Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder

When Germany invades Czechoslovakia, the German and the British intelligence services try to capture Czech scientist Axel Bomasch, inventor of a new type of armor-plating.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English LPCM Mono

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 9/6/2016

• Conversation with Film Scholars Bruce Babington and Peter Evans
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Night Train to Munich: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1940)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 11, 2016)

A 1940 thriller in the Hitchcock vein, Night Train to Munich looks at events connected to the then-current European conflict. Set before the September 1939 start of hostilities, the Nazis abduct Czech scientist Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt), an inventor who created a new form of armor plating the Germans hope will assist their war effort.

This kidnapping occurs via subterfuge. Bomasch had fled to England, but the Gestapo tricks his adult daughter Anna (Margaret Lockwoood) into revealing his location.

After the Nazis capture Bomasch and Anna, they wind up in a German concentration camp. There they get help from Dickie Randall (Rex Harrison), a British undercover agent Anna doesn’t fully trust. Nonetheless, she has little choice but to work with Randall so she and her father can escape from the Nazis.

I mentioned that Munich follows the Hitchcock template, and that seems more literal than usual, as the film offers a whole lot in common with 1938’s The Lady Vanishes. Both share thematic/character concepts – including action on a train - and both star Margaret Lockwood. Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder wrote both scripts, and both even feature the same comic relief characters, the cricket-obsessed Brits Charters and Caldicott, once again played by Basil Radford and Naughton Wayne.

With so many similarities, some view Munich as a sequel to Vanishes, but in reality, it comes closer to “remake” territory. It seems odd to do another version of the story so soon after the first one, but I think Munich offers enough differences to stand on its own.

That said, Munich doesn’t live up to the highs we found with Vanishes. To be sure, Carol Reed was a fine director in his own right, but outside of his classic Third Man, I have yet to see a Reed flick that matches with Hitch’s better work. That’s not an insult – Hitchcock was arguably the greatest director of all-time – but it means that Reed can’t bring the same zing and flavor to Munich that Hitchcock added to Vanishes.

That leads to a serviceable thriller but not a great one. Perhaps the deft, exciting Vanishes set the bar too high and I demanded too much from Munich - as I mentioned earlier, it’s unreasonable to expect Hitchcock-level greatness.

When the movie shoves so many similarities our way, though, the comparisons become inevitable, and they leave Munich a little lacking. The pacing seems less urgent and the film doesn’t reproduce the freshness and tension of Vanishes.

Still, Munich remains fairly involving – though I could live without the presence of Childers and Caldicott. They seem gratuitous and lack an organic reason to appear here. Though the tale tries hard to involve them, I think we could drop them and not lose much from the movie.

On the positive side, Munich comes with more than a few enticing sequences. Some represent spy action, while others present a delightfully glib mockery of the Nazis. I especially like a scene in which the intonation given to a description of Germany as a “fine country to live in” gets debate. These moments add occasional zest to the film.

Among the actors, Harrison fares best. He manages a spry performance that demonstrates the necessary “leading man” charm but also maintains the elusive attitude of the secret agent. Harrison brings extra life to the proceedings.

Ultimately, Munich turns into a moderately engaging wartime thriller but not a great one. It simply suffers too much from unavoidable comparisons with its superior predecessor to stand out in its own right.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Night Train to Munich appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a consistently pleasing presentation.

Sharpness usually appeared very good. The film only suffered from a few slightly ill-defined shots, as the majority of the flick demonstrated nice delineation. I saw no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and the movie lacked edge haloes.

In terms of print flaws, Munich looked mostly clean. Archival footage showed unavoidable marks, and optical shots came with a few blemishes, but these stayed minor and weren’t a problem. Blacks appeared deep and rich, while low-light shots demonstrated nice definition and clarity. This ended up as a solid image.

Although the LPCM monaural soundtrack of Munich didn’t demonstrate anything special, it worked fine for its era and genre. Speech seemed slightly thin but was good for its age, as lines remained intelligible and clear.

Music demonstrated reasonable range. The music didn’t impress, but it appeared acceptably bright. Effects became a minor component in this chatty flick, and they came across as reasonably accurate; though they had little heft, they were clean and didn’t suffer from distortion or other concerns. The audio appeared positive for its era.

For a Criterion release, Munich seems unusually light in terms of extras. On the disc itself, we find only one feature: a Conversation with Film Scholars Bruce Babington and Peter Evans. During this 29-minute, 22-second chat, they discuss cast/crew, story, characters and screenplay, comparisons with The Lady Vanishes, themes and reflections of then-modern society, and the movie’s reception/legacy.

Babington and Evans touch on a fairly good array of topics, though the piece never becomes especially involving. While they give us some useful notes, the overall impact seems a little thin. A full commentary would’ve been preferable, as this turns conversation remains average.

The set also provides a booklet. It includes an essay from film critic Philip Kemp. Though brief, this piece adds value.

Essentially a remake of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich offers a slightly better than average thriller. However, it doesn’t live up to its predecessor – it comes with reasonable entertainment but lacks originality. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and audio but doesn’t include significant supplements. Munich gives us a moderately likable tale.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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