A Movie A Day: Quint takes a ride on THE TRAIN (1965)
A painting means as much to you as a string of pearls to an ape
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Some of you more dedicated AMAD followers must be scratching your heads right now. Our originally scheduled AMAD was the James Cagney classic WHITE HEAT. I was very much looking forward to it, but a strange thing happened… My Warner Bros Classic Gangsters v. 1 has run away from home.
I seriously spent 2 hours searching through my DVDs and could not find it, so I hit my list of AMADs to do an emergency reconstruction of the coming weeks.
It just so happened that I added a title to my AMAD stack about 2 months ago called THE TRAIN and it’s a perfect follow-up to yesterday’s BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ. It’s a reteaming of the director (John Frankenheimer) and star (Burt Lancaster), set in the waning days of WW2 as a Nazi colonel attempts to move France’s most valuable art, including originals from Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Cezanne, among others, out of Paris and into Germany before the Allies retake France.
I’m sure WHITE HEAT is amazing and I will make sure to get it back in the fold as soon as I can find the damned thing, but I have to say that THE TRAIN is a fucking phenomenal picture.
Let me take a moment to pause and brag a little bit. I promise not to prolong it, but I just got a new TV… it’s half-installed… My receiver is still pulled out, wires splayed out like an eviscerated corpse, but everything is hooked up, just not tidy.
It’s my first true 1080p HD experience and I’ve had the Wall-E Blu-Ray on a loop since it got here this morning, but I have to comment on the up-conversion, which looked mediocre on the last TV I had, but really blew me away with this film, which, by the way, isn’t even Animorphic Standard Def, but letterboxed. On my 61” Samsung Series 7 LED set it looked sharper than expected, not losing much, if any, definition in the process.
I am in loooooooovvveeeee.
And on a film like this, it was the cherry on the top. Two DPs are credited, one is Jean Tournier (THE DAY OF THE JACKAL) and the other is Walter Wottitz (THE LONGEST DAY), but I know this was a trouble production. Arthur Penn was fired after the first day, at Lancaster’s request, for wanting a film too intimate and without the action beats Lancaster thought the film needed.
Whichever DP is responsible deserves commendation for an excellently shot black and white film, which eccentuates the effortlessly brilliant direction by Frankenheimer. The are some brave, brave shots in this movie, long takes of mass mayhem, crazy stunts performed by the actors, again all in one take (including one with Lancaster where he slides down a ladder, throws a switch, then jump onto a moving train, ducking in just before that same ladder he slid down could rip him in two) and some of the most amazing train wreck sequences ever.
I won’t say it’s the train wreck mayhem that’s so fascinating, but how Frankenheimer shot it. There’s one shot in particular where a trail derails and I have no clue how the fuck he got this shot, but the camera is low, next to the tracks and the train sails off track about 10 feet in front of it, sliding just over the camera… I imagine it was a very, very long lens, but the shot took my breath away… and looking up some trivia on IMDB, there was a shot (perhaps this one) in which multiple cameras were set up, but the train was going much faster than anticipated, so when it flew off the rails it destroyed 3 of those cameras. Insanity.
I can’t praise Frankenheimer’s work here enough. Just watch his shot selection, framing and how fluidly he moves the camera here. It’s an incredible visual showcase.
Basically we have an espionage film where Lancaster is a working Frenchman (with an American accent, but whatever… it’s Burt Lancaster… he’s allowed to be the only American-sounding man in this picture), a railroad operator who is forced to work under Nazi supervision as France endures over 1500 days of German occupation. We come to find out rather quickly that Lancaster is part of a French resistance that is doing whatever it can to fuck the Germans, but it seems every single act of defiance has a price.
They don’t get away clean in this movie. By the time we meet Lancaster, playing a character called Labiche, we find out there are only 4 friends of his left that fight the powers that be. He started out with 18.
When he is first approached by a curator asking them to stop the Nazis from stealing France’s heritage, and causing shame to the country for not protecting the world’s collected work of art as was its charge, Lancaster declines. If there’s a price to pay for every overt act of opposition, why not focus on weapon trains or troop trains. Why risk life for art?
Lancaster comes around… I don’t know if he really takes to the cause as much as he gets into a competition with the main antagonist, a Col. in the Nazi party, Col. von Waldheim (played by Paul Scofield). It’s almost a contest of wills and definitely, by the end it becomes a series of one-upping one another and raising stakes.
I found myself a little conflicted… because as much I love Lancaster in the movie and he is undeniably the hero, Scofield is driven by his love and appreciation for this art. His motives aren’t pure by any means. He’s not trying to save the art and knows full goddamn well that trying to move a train-load of some of the most amazing example of human expression and creativity into Germany is a million times more dangerous than leaving it in Paris… There is a money factor, it’s what he uses to make the top brass give him the train as they’re struggling to keep the Americans from retaking France, but you know of the two main men fighting over this trainload of art, it’s the Nazi who actually appreciates it.
I love that about this movie and I also love seeing two opposing forces that are a match for each other. Once Lancaster’s cover is blown, he really has to stick to the shadows, stay out of sight. Scofield has all the power, but even he is losing it, in more ways than one. His time is running out. His superiors need the train as the allies push further and further into France, so even though he has his troops he can’t tip his hat to his superiors that he’s lied to them about the train.
Scofield gets more and more desperate as the movie goes on and it’s wonderful to see him play it for all it’s worth.
Lancaster’s work here isn’t as subtle as his BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ performance, but it’s strong stuff. He’s more of a typical hero type, but what sets him apart in this film is how he uses his intellect more than a gun. The impression I get from watching these two films back to back is that Lancaster really threw himself into his roles. He seems an expert at the physical labor of keeping trains going, even metalsmithing, just as in yesterday’s AMAD he was very convincing in his handling and treatment of birds.
Maurice Jarre (JACOB’S LADDER) deserves a quick mention as well for his excellent score. Especially keep an ear out during the opening credits for his incredibly peppy and fun score.
Final Thoughts: A thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and thrilling movie. I could think of a few great pairings for a double feature with this flick… The first film that jumped to my mind was the Frank Sinatra WW2 train heist flick VON RYAN’S EXPRESS, which we’ve covered in the AMAD. That’s a given… but if you want to go a little more edgier with your second film, track down the awesome bum vs. murderous bull EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE, starring Lee Marvin as the bum and Ernest Borgnine as the bull. But double feature or no, make sure to put this one on your queue. You won’t regret it.
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Saturday, November 22nd: GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (1957)
Sunday, November 23rd: MYSTERY STREET (1948)
Monday, November 24th: BORDER INCIDENT (1949)
Tuesday, November 25th: THE TIN STAR (1957)
Wednesday, November 26th: ON THE BEACH (1959)
Thursday, November 27th: TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH (1949)
Friday, November 28th: GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT (1947)
Since the detour hit, we’re taking a slightly different direction in the coming week, hitting some Gregory Peck films, spanning War films, a post-apocalyptic flick, westerns, dramas, noirs, oh my! See you tomorrow when we follow Burt Lancaster over to GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Nov. 22, 2008, 4:13 a.m. CST
Rule 13.6 in the AMAD handbook. What to do if you misplace a DVD. Find another link and, uh, go with that. Nice recovery Q. I hope you find the Gangster box. Sucks when friends "borrow" DVD's or CD's.
Nov. 22, 2008, 4:17 a.m. CST
Yeah the list got all screwy, sorry to see Petrified Forest lost in the shuffle,hope you can get back to it soon.
Nov. 22, 2008, 4:24 a.m. CST
With the state my place is in, I'm sure it's right here somewhere, just hidden in a stack of DVDs it's not supposed to be in... it's messy, but like every '80s detective, I have my system. heh
Nov. 22, 2008, 4:42 a.m. CST
I didnt read your review, because I already know this is a great movie. The credit sequence alone is badass. Just sayin
Nov. 22, 2008, 4:43 a.m. CST
Frankenheimer had an amazing career, didn't he? I just caught up with Seconds, the film he made after The Train, and it's just as amazing; well worth adding to the queue if you have it in your stash. I see you have On The Beach lined up. Great movie, but prepare to be depressed dude.
Nov. 22, 2008, 4:52 a.m. CST
Oh, sorry wrong movie.
Nov. 22, 2008, 5:38 a.m. CST
Really, no one lives near an independent video store anymore. its all queues and online and gay and whatnot... for shame
Nov. 22, 2008, 6 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
Interesting how one missing movie can change all the plans. No gangster week? Actually the variety coming up looks even more interesting. Hope you find your white heat, though. True classic.
Nov. 22, 2008, 6:49 a.m. CST
THE TRAIN is a fucking awesome film, and one of the last major b/w movies made before everything went colour.
Nov. 22, 2008, 7:15 a.m. CST
Kind of the nonfiction version of this movie. A great documentary/book about the "Monuments Men" efforts to stop the Germans from stealing/destroying great works of art during WW2. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0997088/
Nov. 22, 2008, 8:22 a.m. CST
This is absolutely one of my favorite movies of all time. When I try to describe it to people I have such a hard time because the premise is so simple yet the movie is practically a cat and mouse thriller in how the execution of the story is handled. This movie has been on my BNAT vintage wish list in the past for a reason, the main one being that I would love to see this on a big screen and with a crowd that would just be floored by what this movie has to offer. This is one of the many great black and white action films the elevate b&w cinematography to near genius levels. Some of the shots are just sublime. I have always loved Lancaster, but his role here as Labiche is great work. His battle of wits with Scofield's Col. von Waldheim is one of the great re-watchable delights of this film as they each move back and forth full of desperation to achieve the single thing they need to happen. I am delighted you have been able to see this fantastic gem and what a great introduction to your new television.
Nov. 22, 2008, 8:26 a.m. CST
Yep, Activision's budget line, back in the days of the Commodore 64, created a game (also called "The Train" iirc) that totally ripped off this film without giving credit to where they got the idea. The game starts with the resistance having ambushed the train at the German border, and needing to get the thing back across all of France in one night so that when day comes they'll have Allied air support. (The idea being that otherwise the Germans will bomb the tracks. And yes, the constraint is a bit gamey.) I forget whether there's a shooting gallery sequence at the start, but once you begin you can choose whether to take the easy, middle or hard line back west. After that, you've got to manage the train in its progress, shoveling coal to keep the steam pressure up and stopping for coal and water (and to manage the tracks--this typically involves a shooting gallery at the station). The train has a couple of anti-air guns in case a lone night-fighter finds you, and a rail-mounted cannon for fighting off riverboats at bridges.
Nov. 22, 2008, 9:18 a.m. CST
My queue is the independent video store. Check out Facets.org. They ship films out ala Netflix, but they specialize in the indi/art/foreign/classic stuff. Its a really good deal too if you live near Chicago as they have a theatre as well and you can see any movie they're playing for free if you're a member. ...And my ad is over. <br><br> This one sounds like a winner, nice recovery film Quint...its in the queue ;)
Nov. 22, 2008, 9:46 a.m. CST
this movie is incredible, and really stands up to today's pacing and action standards. one of the most interesting parts is when Lancaster is working at his job at the railyard, and fixing the train that his old friend sabotaged. <p> just like when he does the stunt (sliding down the ladder, jumping on the train, etc) in one unbroken shot, you see him (1) pour metal into a mold to make a piece of the train, (2) plane/shave off the excess and make it smooth, (3) knock the mold off, (4) put it on the axle, and (5) put the axle back on the train. It's obviously all real, and all very heavy (Burt's a great actor, but he's not good enough to fake this). <p> it's a slightly unnecessary scene, but just great from a realism/metalworking standingpoint, and it really builds his character as a master of his trade (and someone who would be pained to see trains destroyed). also, the scene where he limps (he was really hurt, they worked it into the story) up one side of the mountain and down the other so he could outrun the Nazi train to the next switch-house was great. Really physical stuff....
Nov. 22, 2008, 2:16 p.m. CST
Does someone watch a fucking movie every single day? Between work, women, friends, etc, who has the time? Is Quint some 300 pound shut-in or something?
Nov. 22, 2008, 6:27 p.m. CST
That's an underrated gem with Burt Lancaster from the late 70s, as renegade Burt takes over a nuclear silo and threatens to start WW3. Damn I would like to see a decent version of its original cut. Wish there was a decent DVD available. ..."THE TRAIN" is a great flick, back when Frankenheimer was really on top of his game. ...And I second the earlier comment about "SECONDS"... a really great work on par with "MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE".
Nov. 22, 2008, 7:58 p.m. CST
I was really looking forward to your review of _The Cincinnati Kid_.
Nov. 22, 2008, 9:16 p.m. CST
Which film on the coming up list is post-apocalypse? I see noir, western and war, but not spying the post-apox...
Nov. 22, 2008, 9:18 p.m. CST
You are in for quite a treat on some of the new ones. The Ricardo Montalban Double-hitter of Mystery Street and Border Incident really stands out. Without giving anything away, In Mystery Street, you get to see Ricardo Montalban as a homicide detective in Boston in a pretty good policier; while Border Incident was directed by Anthony Man, maker of T-Man and the Nake Spur, and is a very violent piece for its day. In both films, be surprised to see Mexican Ricardo to be surprisingly treated as fully-rounded character and not a sterortype (no aye chiwawa here). <p>
Nov. 22, 2008, 9:59 p.m. CST
I don't know if that was the plan or not. But I'm thoroughly freakin impressed you're still going. When you're done, I say put this sucker in print (all eight thousand pages of it) so I can have a book on my shelf to snob out on by saying 'this started as an internet article that grew into a set of film encyclopedias' or some such.
Nov. 23, 2008, 3:14 p.m. CST
I saw a documentary with John Frankenheimer where he talked about the great final shot of the crashing train . After placing all the carefully planned out remote controlled cameras, he had one spare one left, and he just pointed to a hole beside the track and said "just put it there." It was just sheer dumb luck that the hastily placed camera was in just the right spot with the just the right focus as one wheel of the life-size wrecked train slid within inches of the camera, and just spun there at the top of the frame. Probably the greatest lucky shot in the history of cinema.
Nov. 23, 2008, 4:17 p.m. CST
It was set in post World War II Japan. Complete with Ex American GI trying to be the new mafia in Tokyo.<p> With DeForrest Kelly as a heavy! Yee Haww.!
Nov. 24, 2008, 2:05 p.m. CST
You're thinking of Sam Fuller's The Crimson Kimono. Although the original (not set in Japan), The Street With No Name, is better. Anyway, hope Quint likes Twelve O'Clock High, that's a really beautifully made grownup drama, no BS on what war is like ("What should I do with his arms?") or what it does to a commanding officer to send boys out to get killed day after day.
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