During the Battle of the Bulge, an anachronistic count shelters a ragtag squad of Americans in his remote 10th Century castle hoping a battle there against the advancing Germans will not lead to its destruction and all the heritage within.
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
Director Arthur Penn oversaw the development of the film and directed the first day of shooting. The next day was a holiday. Burt Lancaster, dissatisfied with Penn's conception of the picture, had him fired and replaced by John Frankenheimer. Penn envisioned a more intimate film that would muse on the role art played in the French character, and why they would risk their lives to save the country's great art from the Nazis. He did not intend to give much focus to the mechanics of the train operation itself. Frankenheimer said that in the original script Penn wanted to shoot, the train did not leave the station until page 90. The production was shut down briefly while the script was rewritten. Lancaster told screenwriter Walter Bernstein the day Penn was fired, "Frankenheimer is a bit of a whore, but he'll do what I want." What Lancaster wanted was more emphasis on action in order to ensure that the film was a hit--after the failure of his film The Leopard (1963)--by appealing to a broader audience. See more »
When the Nazi is hit with the coal shovel and thrown from the train, he lands on a buried landing pad. The ground moves for a distance around him, in the shape of a rectangle. Leaves and dust fly up in the air showing the outline of a rectangular landing pad buried under a layer of ground debris. Even a nearby bush shakes as though the landing pad is tied to it. See more »
Forget the art train. We'll have enough to do tomorrow. Which reminds me, I'll need another engineer for the art train. I'll have to give it to Papa Boule.
Not Papa Boule!
I don't have any choice. Who else is there?
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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 »
The movie is about the Nazis taking 'degenerate' modern paintings out of Paris as the allies are approaching. The officer in charge of the spoils, Colonel Von Waldheim, is secretly in love with the art he is supposed to hate; his official motivation is based on "cash value." The French train workers, led by Labiche, have no appreciation for the art and are unaware of its cultural importance, but nevertheless fight the Germans out of patriotism, against their better instincts.
Frantic, weary tension comes from the closeness of end of the war, a desperate time that drives the characters well past sane restraint. The Germans can no longer deny their impending doom. Grit comes from massive steam locomotives shot in black and white. The mortal struggle plays out on a personal level. The action is relentless.
The director, John Frankenheimer, relies on the intelligence and empathy of the audience to convey his story. Much of the movie is concerned with the mechanicals of how a railroad works. It shows the dignity and solidarity of the workers, and their huge effort.
The theme is the waste, the cost of war -- what is worth fighting for, what you actually do fight for even though it does not seem to be worth it, and the capricious outcome. The tally comes at the final scene.
"The Train" is a perfect action-adventure war drama.
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