Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Berlin Express

Berlin Express - poster finalCinema Monolith: 8/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!
IMDb: 6.8/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *** out of 4

Released on May 1, 1948
Not rated
87 minutes

Directed by Jacques Tourneur

Written by Harold Medford, from a story by Curt Siodmak

Cast: Robert Ryan, Merle Oberon, Paul Lukas, Charles Korvin, Reinhold Schünzel, Robert Coote, Charles McGraw, Roman Toporow, Peter von Zerneck, Otto Waldis, Fritz Kortner, Gene Evans, David Clarke, Michael Harvey, Paul Stewart (narrator)

In Paris after WWII, a cryptic message on a small slip of paper—21:45 – D – 9850 – Sulzbach—is found by children playing under the Eiffel Tower, strapped to the leg of a dead bird. The note is taken to the police, and then to the French authorities, who notify other occupation headquarters—American, British, and Russian—about their find. The problem is, no one knows what the message means: at 9:45 on what day, and which Sulzbach? And more importantly, why was it written in German script?

This scenario sets up a sharp, serpentine post-war kidnapping tale directed with his usual flair by Jacques Tourneur, who established the characters and conflict nicely, then proceeded to take the viewer on a tour of war-ravaged Frankfurt and Berlin, integrating bombed-out buildings and landscapes into the story and giving one a rare look at the affect of war on Germany. Robert Ryan, Merle Oberon, and Paul Lukas lead a dissimilar cast of characters brought together by an assassination bombing in their train car; they soon join forces in tracking down Lukas’ German peace activist, who is abducted from a train station and vanishes.

Tourneur threw some pretty cool noir visuals on the screen as well (he’d directed the stellar Out of the Past just one year earlier) and he kept the pace swift, while Curt Siodmak’s twist-filled story kept you thinking and guessing throughout. Part of the fun was following this disparate group of international compatriots—American, British, German, Russian, and French—as they traversed seedy sections of dilapidated cities searching for clues to Lukas’ disappearance, as revelation after revelation played out in front of Tourneur’s expert camera frame. He took what should have been ordinary shots and turned them into photographic works of art.

I’ve liked Ryan in every film of his I’ve seen, from his noir films of the 1940s and Westerns of the 1950s, all the way to the war movies of his later years. And he’s just as good here, portraying his character Lindley as strong, sensible, and smart, and though the other actors were great in their roles (including noir vet Charles McGraw in a small part), it was Ryan who stood out. This was a very well-done wartime mystery from Tourneur, packed into an efficient 87 minutes and combining a well-written espionage story with the best visual elements of film noir. Definitely worth a look!  (8/10)

Berlin Express - photo

 

16 comments on “Berlin Express

  1. Kelly "LMD" Benefiel
    1/16/18

    Robert Ryan!

    • Todd B
      1/16/18

      You know it! Do you still have that VHS tape I made for you, with the two movies of his I recorded off AMC?

  2. This is a good one and another fine film for the underrated director.

    • Todd B
      1/17/18

      I like this one more and more each time I see it…and I’d still like to check out more of Tourneur’s lesser-known efforts, like Circle of Danger and The Leopard Man.

      • They’re both worth watching and of course Out of the Past, Curse of the Demon, Canyon Passage and I really like his Comedy of Terrors with Price and company.

      • Todd B
        1/17/18

        Canyon Passage is one I’d like to see as well. And Out of the Past is my favorite noir of all time!

  3. Man, you’re really cranking them out! What’s gotten into you?!? Great job Todd!!

    • Todd B
      1/20/18

      Trying to do a post per day is what’s gotten into me! Hopefully I can make it through January, but beyond that, I don’t know. This lingering sickness of mine has made it hard to keep up!

  4. Need to see this Todd. I’ll be back when I can track it down. Sounds right up my locomotive 🙂

    • Todd B
      5/22/18

      Hey Mikey! Yeah, I’d say definitely worth a look…I think you’ll get a kick out of it. My copy was taped off TCM years ago, but I know it’s available on Warner Archive if you want to spend the big bucks ($15) and add it to your collection. Of course, you might be able to find a Beta copy for less if you do some digging.

      • Hopefully it will pop up on TCM again soon. I will be keeping them peeled like my spuds. 🙂

      • Todd B
        5/24/18

        What’s funny is, when you mentioned ‘spuds’, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t potatoes, but Spuds MacKenzie!

      • hehe Spuds MacKenzie! What a hunk. lol. I’m sure he didn’t make it across the pond to us. Our equivalent was follow the bear. 🙂

      • Todd B
        5/29/18

        Ha, I checked out a few Hofmeister ‘follow the bear’ commercials…pretty funny. Too bad they didn’t use a REAL bear, though. 😉

      • Yeah you would of thought they would of got in contact with Grizzly Adams to pimp out Gentle Ben guzzling pints of beer. Missed opportunity! 🙂 (sorry added this to the wrong reply before, lol baffle some unfortunate person reading your Quicksand comments hehe)

      • Todd B
        6/12/18

        Ha, I’ll leave it in…it’s about time I baffled some of my readers. Wait…perhaps ‘baffle them even more’ would make more sense!

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