Thursday, September 24, 2015

Movie review - "Sleeping Car to Trieste" (1948) *** (warning: spoilers)

I'm a sucker for a good train movie - The Lady Vanishes, Silver Streak, North by Northwest, The Narrow Margin. The Brits especially seemed to like them, with their cosy sense of thrills and crime and soothing sounds of wheels on tracks, and numerous subplots that usually mixed comedy with sex and espionage.

This is an enjoyable, unpretentious specimen of the breed, with a cast that was unfamiliar to me for the most part, full of actors playing mysterious Europeans and dodgy Britons. The lead is someone called Albert Lieven, a Conrad Veidt type who plays a spy; since he shoots dead a guard in the opening scene you guess that he's not going to make it to the end of the film alive. His co star is the better known and better billed Jean Kent, who doesn't have much of a role, playing another spy.

The nominal hero is another suave actor about whom I know little, Paul Dupuis, as a detective and hero of the French resistance, but his part isn't that big either. More running time is taken up by comic passenger David Tomlinson, comic American soldier Bonar Colleano, adulterous couple Derrick de Marney and Rona Anderson (this more than anything made me recall The Lady Vanishes), pompous writer Finlay Currie and spy Alan Wheatley.  There's also a bird watcher, a cooking expert and a chef - a lot going on.

The film makes a mistake in the last third - instead of keeping things on its toes and the characters running from room to room, the action bogs down in the one carriage, with everyone standing around and Dupuis interrogating people like Charlie Chan. Lieven does get a decent death scene. More could have been done with the Kent-Dupuis romance - actually more should have been done with Kent full stop, I never really got a fix on her character.

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