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As the Allied forces approach Paris in August 1944, German Colonel Von Waldheim is desperate to take all of France's greatest paintings to Germany. He manages to secure a train to transport the valuable art works even as the chaos of retreat descends upon them. The French resistance however wants to stop them from stealing their national treasures but have received orders from London that they are not to be destroyed. The station master, Labiche, is tasked with scheduling the train and making it all happen smoothly but he is also part of a dwindling group of resistance fighters tasked with preventing the theft. He and others stage an elaborate ruse to keep the train from ever leaving French territory. Written by
The character of Mlle Villard is based on Rose Antonia Maria Valland - a French art historian, a member of the French Resistance, a captain in the French military, and one of the most decorated women in French history. As overseer of the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris during the German occupation, Valland began secretly recording as much as possible about more than 20,000 pieces of art that had been brought to the Jeu de Paume. She understood German and for four years kept track of where and to whom in Germany the plundered artworks were shipped. She provided the information to the French Underground and about railroad shipments of art so that they would not mistakenly blow up the trains loaded with art treasures. A few weeks before the Liberation of Paris, on August 1, 1944, Valland learned that the Germans were planning to ship out five last boxcars full of art, including many of the modern paintings which they had hitherto neglected. She notified her contacts in the Resistance, who prevented the train from leaving Paris. The movie was inspired by her 1961 non-fiction book "Le front de l'art: défense des collections françaises, 1939-1945" (The Art Front: Defence of the French Collections, 1939-1945). See more »
(at around 35 mins) When Labiche starts to resolve the "problem" with switch 10, he bends down and reaches in with pliers in his hand. When he pulls out the obstruction (the German officer's pipe), there are no pliers in his hand. See more »
With luck, no one will be hurt.
No one's ever hurt. Just dead.
Paul, uh, have you ever seen any of those paintings on that train? I haven't. You know, when it's over, I think maybe we should take a look, hmm?
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I enjoy train films as a whole, my film collection is categorized into themes, such as trains, etc., and this is, by far, the best train film I've ever seen. The wreck scene, as well as the moving train(s) were very real, in fact, as story has it, the equipment used was WW1 vintage locomotives rescued from the scrap heap, and renovated to allow them at least to move, if not under their own power, then off-camera, pushed or pulled by more modern equipment. The elaborate wreck scene was incredibly beautiful in execution. By far the best train wreck scene I've ever seen in any film! Kudos to Frankenheimer for his expertise, as well as the technical special-effects people for their diligent, hard work in bringing this story to life on the screen! Although I cringe at seeing ANY type of machinery destroyed, this was really beautiful! A Real Masterpiece!
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