Blu-Ray Review – The Train (1964)

John Frankenheimer made an extraordinary trilogy about paranoia in the ’60s and The Train comes smack in the middle of that. Frankenheimer only came on to direct after the original director Arthur Penn was fired early on during the production. It plays like an action version of that somewhat unfairly maligned George Clooney film The Monuments Men from the other year.

Burt Lancaster stars as the resistant member Paul Labiche who has to delay the train he is conducting for a few days so the Allies can intercept it. The train is carrying priceless pieces of art by Matisse and Renoir amongst others and the Nazis want to get in back to Germany. Paul works with the resistant in a series of action set pieces to detour the train’s arrival in Germany so they can not lose their national heritage.

Frankenheimer is a visual master with his extraordinary of close-ups. He expertly builds tension over the film’s 2 hour and 20 minute running, he is after all a director who almost exclusively made thrillers in one kind or the other. It’s a bit slower than some of his other films of that era but it’s probably down to the big action epic the film is. Frankenheimer says in the commentary “I think this is the last big action picture ever made in black and white, and personally I am so grateful that it is in black and white. I think the black and white adds tremendously to the movie.” and it certainly does. 

Lancaster, as usual, brings his usual physicality to the role, he was originally a circus acrobat performer before he was ever an actor. Paul Scofield brings real menace as the Nazi officer  Col. Franz von Waldheim and French legend  Jeanne Moreau appears as well. Frankenheimer may have been better suited to paranoid idiosyncratic thrillers but The Train remains one of the most important action films of all-time.

The disc includes Audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer, Optional isolated score by Maurice Jarre, Burt Lancaster in the Sixties which is an interview with biographer Kate Buford, French television news report on the making of The Train,  Archive interview with Michel Simon, Footage of The Train’s gala screening in Marseilles and Theatrical Trailer

Ian Schultz | [rating=4]

Genre: War, Thriller | Distributor: Arrow Academy | BD Release Date: 11th May 2015(UK) | Rating: PG | Director: John Frankenheimer | Cast: Burt Lancaster,Paul Scofield,  Jeanne Moreau | BuyThe Train [Blu-Ray]