Ryan, an American POW, leads his fellow prisoners on a dangerous escape from the Germans in Italy. Having seemingly made errors of judgment, Ryan has to win the support of the mainly British soldiers he is commanding. Written by
The film credits and all promotion publicity still say "A Cinemascope Picture", and Alfred Newman's "extended" 20th Century-Fox fanfare is still heard on the soundtrack as the picture begins, but most of the film was actually shot in Panavision, at Frank Sinatra's insistence. See more »
This is a very logical and well-considered storyline developed from David Westheimer's WWWII thriller by Wendell Mayes and Joseph Landon The escape that ends this film, a trainborne flight across Italian lines toward Switzerland provides a vivid action climax when the train is attacked; it is a bit implausible only because of the length of time the train has to go on unstopped. The film begins its exciting adventure narrative with the arrival of "Von Ryan", then Ryan, among a group of busy British and American sorts trying to escape from a stalag run by a sadistic commandant. They are being punished, but will not give up their attempts. As the now-ranking senior officer, Ryan orders them to stop escaping, then betrays their tunnels to the enemy in return for decent conditions. He is betrayed; then he issues an order that causes him to be put into solitary. he gets respect from this; but he is now "Von Ryan" for the remainder of the film. the war ends; the prisoners revolt successfully and capture the Commandant. Then they have to move overland to escape, and"Von Ryan's" sparing of some prisoners costs lives. But it his great idea once they are captured and put aboard a train to be taken to imprisonment in Germany is to steal the train and head for safety elsewhere. They succeed; against all odds, even though he must kill an Italian officer's loyal betrayer, a beautiful woman; and by ruse, attack, feint, false messages and speed, they do what is necessary. Then as they head for Switzerland, the German planes attack. And at the last, Ryan runs after the train, the last of all--and becomes a legend the hard way. Music by Jerry Goldsmith, makeup by Ben Nye, cinematography by William H. Daniels , art direction by Hilyard B. Brown and John Martin Smith all under the direction of producer-director Mark Robson add up to a recipe for a first-rate color adventure film. As Ryan, Frank Sinatra is not entirely miscast and tries very hard, sensibly underplaying his role, matched every step of the way by Trevor Howard who mostly reacts and gives speeches about the way things ought to be done, very effectively. Edward Mulhare comes off Academy Award level in the film, and others such as John van Dreelin, Sergio Fantoni, Adolfo Celi as the Commandant, and Vito Scotti do well. Raffalla Carra is the girl Ryan must kill, Wolfgang Preiss, Brad Dexter, John Leyton and Richard Bakalyan are soldiers on one side or another. There are many exciting scenes provided, none moreso than Mulhare's impersonation of a German officer; the death of the girl, the final attacks on the train, several of the scenes set in the Stalag and the train's progress which is counterpoised many times to German language scenes of what their pursuers are doing; dialogue scenes lead here to action, action to reassessments, to challenges and to consequences. This is sometimes a slick film, but never a boring one, I suggest. Its characters are not developed as they would have been in a dramatic film; this is an adventure-level film with dramatic elements. And it is a good and occasionally thrilling ride, with the curious sense about it of a dream and a symbol both. Its theme is the courage to dare; and in the enigmatic Ryan, it finds an appropriate hero, a bit tarnished about the edges as a soldier but a first-rate result-getter nevertheless.
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