Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"Train" Roars Along at Dizzy Clip
Cleveland Press April 15, 1965
The motion picture is often called the director's medium -- as opposed to the stage which is the actor's arena -- and no better example of this can be found than a movie called "The Train."
Here is a movie that is melodrama about sabotage in World War II, but which looks like a documentary in its attention to detail; which has fine actors in strong portrayals but in which action and movement are more important than the acting.
The film was directed by John Frankeheimer, a young (33) graduate of television whose film credits include "Seven Days in May" and "Manchurian Candidate."
"The Train" concerns the attempts of a Nazi officer (Paul Scofield) to ship a trainload of French art treasures to Berlin before the Allies take over Paris.
Trains are needed to carry the retreating German forces, but Scofield translates the art into terms of money for his superior officer and gets permission to assemble the box cars and a locomotive .
HE IGNORES attempts to rescind the orders and getting the train out of Paris and into Berlin becomes a personal obsession.
A museum curator (Suzanne Flon) tries to convince the French Resistance of the importance of stopping the art filled train, but the resistance leader (Burt Lancaster) refuses to waste lives for art.
He also is area inspector for the French National Railway, the man who assembles and routes trains, and his present problem is to delay an armored train long enough for Allied bombers to hit it.
WHEN AN OLD FRIEND dies trying to sabotage the train carrying the art, Lancaster gets involved and is convinced the train must be stopped and the art saved.
The bulk of the action is in a railroad marshaling yard and along the railroad's right of way. Switching tracks and locomotives thundering at the audience become the instruments of action and suspense.
There are spectacular effects as the armored train is bombed and explodes. Even more exciting is the crashing of a locomotive, the piling up of boxcars behind it and the appearance of another locomotive ramming into the end of the train just for good measure.
THE RESISTANCE resorts to a series of tricks to reroute the train so that it is headed in a circle, with towns changing names along the way.
As in most melodrama, there are items that are glossed over -- how are these things done and who is doing them? But Frankenheimer moves his film as well as his trains so rapidly that the audience has gone past these points before it can be too bothered to think about the answers.
LANCASTER and Scofield are both convincing in their roles -- each man obsessed with his mission, each against seemingly impossible odds but still coming through with one more trick.
Lancaster, a one time acrobat, handles his own stunts -- leaping on and off of trains, climbing walls, rolling down a hillside.
Jeanne Moreau appears briefly as a lonely and embittered widow who helps Lancaster. The movie is filmed with fine bit parts handled by skillful French actors.