BBC2 Playhouse: Season 7, Episode 1

Caught on a Train (31 Oct. 1980)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama
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Reviews: 13 user | 1 critic

Peter boards a train to attend an important business meeting across Europe. His train trip is made more complicated by two women also assigned to his train compartment. One is an ... See full summary »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Frau Messner
Wendy Raebeck ...
Ingo Mogendorf ...
Louis Sheldon ...
Michael Kingsbury ...
John Dolan ...
Small Man in Mac
Christopher Frederick ...
German Guard
Ken Shaw ...
German Guard
Terry Gurry ...
Belgian Guard
Baron Casanov ...
Fat Man
Belgian Youth
Richard Merson ...
Lex van Delden ...


Peter boards a train to attend an important business meeting across Europe. His train trip is made more complicated by two women also assigned to his train compartment. One is an independent American whom Peter finds attractive. The other is Frau Messner - an extremely particular and demanding older European woman. Between the two of them, they try different aspects of Peter's patience... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis








Release Date:

31 October 1980 (UK)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

This film makes one yearn wistfully for a BBC at its zenith of creativity
6 May 2001 | by (Belfast UK) – See all my reviews

Caught on a train remains one of the most powerful British TV films to ever grace the small screen. Peter, an ambitious young publisher chooses to take a transcontinental train to travel to a book fair in Germany than fly. This decision has consequences which he could never have anticipated.

The train is in itself symbolic of the chaotic state of post-war Europe. It is inhabited by a melee of anachronistic elderly passengers, ambitious business men and thuggish volatile youths.

Early on one gets a sense of romantic intrigue when Peter befriends a mysterious young American woman with whom he is sharing a carriage. This soon subsides when Frau Messner (Peggy Ashcroft) makes her dramatic entrance. From that point she dominates the drama entirely with her steely, matriarchical, petulant yet ultimately vulnerable personality.

Peter is subjected to a series of humiliations courtesy of Frau Messner's dictatorial personality. These include, being harangued into giving up his seat, almost missing the train in order to buy her magazines and ultimately being arrested by brutish german police on suspicion of being a terrorist.

Peter's ambitions of a romantic liason with the American tourist are finally dashed when she declares somewhat callously that she hates Europe and Europeans and present company is by no means excepted.

The film concludes with a scene which is a mastery of economy but yet which dramatises graphically the replacement of the old aristocratic order with that of the unfeeling ambition of modern capitalism in Western Europe.

The film deftly touches on European values at a cusp of transition, Anglo American relations,terrorism and even the rise of fascism in Hitlers Germany.

Stephen Polliakof's masterly script and Peter Duffel's crisp yet undrestated direction make one yearn for a BBC at its zenith of creativity

24 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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