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
Opening credits: The characters portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name,character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional. 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 »
Right after dawn, all switching tracks and trains in the area will be bombed. The art train is not to be destroyed. Orders are to mark it so that the planes will pass it up.
White paint, on the top of the first three cars. London has decided the paintings must not be damaged.
Paint it? For von Waldheim - make him a present? To hell with London! We started this whole thing for one reason: to stop the train, because the Allies were going to be here! Well, where are they? Every day ...
[...] See more »
Opening credits prologue: PARIS August 2-1944 1511th day of German occupation See more »
Whilst the official run time is 133 minutes, the BBFC website has two separate entries, one with a theatrical 'U' rated certificate in 1964 running at 141 minutes 31 seconds and the other entry with a theatrical 'A' rated certificate in 1959 running at 90 minutes 37 seconds. Though the second entry seems incorrect due to the erroneous date of certification being 21 October 1959 (the film was being made in 1963 and is copyrighted in 1964) and a much shorter run time, the BBFC reference numbering is in sequence with the later video rated entries so it is unknown if this 1959 entry is a much shorter cut of this film or this is an error in the BBFC records. It is also not known if the 142 minute entry is a longer cut of the film that has simply not been since it's UK theatrical release in 1964. See more »
This is a fictionalized account of something that did occur towards the end of WWII. When it appeared that the Germans would lose the war, some of their leaders ordered the systematic looting of occupied territories--particularly of the great art museums of Paris. This film is about one of these shipments--a shipment that the French Underground wants to prevent from going into Germany BUT also want to be sure not to destroy.
Burt Lancaster plays the lead as the French train engineer forced to transport this shipment. Why did they choose an American for this role? Probably to increase the marketability and box office for the film. While Lancaster was wonderful for the role for his physicality, it was odd that a Frenchman or at least a man who could approximate the proper accent was not used. In addition, a Canadian (Paul Scofield) was hired to play the leading German in the film--though he also didn't sound the least bit German. While a fine actor, he was not the best choice for the role, either. As for the rest of the cast, they were all more suited for the role. It was also nice to see the Swiss actor, Michel Simon, in the film--as he'd starred in some wonderful films since the 1930s--where he also looked like an old man! Here, at age 70, he finally looked his age!
This is a film that left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, you need to hand it to the director (the great John Frankenheimer) for being so meticulous and getting the look of the film just right (with amazing stunts and attention to detail) as well as great cinematography. But, on the other, despite this being a very well-respected film, its pace was way too slow--and could have benefited from a slight trimming. Now I am NOT against longer films--provided the pacing and story is sufficient to support it. Here, 20 minutes lopped off might have made the film flow better--and made it a great film (despite the odd casting). As it was, it did drag a bit. I liked the film but did not love it. Though, as a history teacher, I really did appreciate the film's historical accuracy.
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