The Train

The Train (1964)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield
Extras: Commentary Track, Isolated Ccore, Theatrical Trailer

Set during World War Two, ’The Train’ features a great deal of action courtesy of Burt Lancaster. As usual the star chose to do all of his own stunts allowing director John Frankenheimer a degree of flexibility in filming that really makes this movie come to life. Of course, Mr. Lancaster ended up with a severely broken leg for his troubles.

It is 1944 and the Allies are slowly but surely closing in on Nazi-occupied Paris. German Col. von Waldheim (Paul Scofield), sensing that the end is near, boxes up as many great French paintings as he can lay his hands on and puts them on the next train to Germany. The French Resistance is adamant that these national treasures not be removed from the country and sets about trying to delay the train long enough for the Allies to arrive. Labiche (Burt Lancaster) is the French railway official who is eventually forced to drive the train to Germany. While an active member of the Resistance, he feels that it is not worth risking the lives of men to save mere works of art. As the film progresses, the struggle between Waldheim and Labiche becomes personal and both are soon willing to ignore orders and risk their lives, and those of others, to ensure that the other man not succeed. All the while the question hangs heavy; ’Where are the Allies?’

’The Train’ is presented in a very nice, non-anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) and is in its original black and white. Fortunately, both contrast and brightness are solid so the shades of gray are rendered faithfully. There are a few imperfections here and there but as a whole the video is quite sharp.

The audio is a mono track, split between the two front speakers. As with many older soundtracks, dialogue is a bit hard to hear and turning it up to acceptable levels reveals some degree of hiss. The sound effects are very good and the audio features more bass than I was expecting.

Chief among the included extras is a commentary track by director John Frankenheimer. He is interesting to listen to but there are some very long pauses between his comments. An isolated score featuring Maurice Jarre’s splendid soundtrack is also provided. Finally, there is the original theatrical trailer which reveals a bit too much about the plot so be sure to watch the movie first.

Featuring the best train wrecks this side of ’The Fugitive,’ ’The Train’ is that rarest of breeds, an intelligent action thriller, and the DVD release comes highly recommended.