Night Train To Munich


A Nazi can be an easy villain. Countless films have depicted Nazis as angry, unthinking bullies for decades now. It has gotten to the point that actors are not looking to actual Nazis for inspiration but to several different iconic Nazi performances. So where did this fascination with Nazis as villains start? Why when Britain entered the war of course.

Night Train to Munich was put into production in 1939, right after Britain declared war on Germany getting the ball started for the United States to join in and have it blow up into the war it has become. The film feels a lot like a Hitchcock film although it was actually directed by Carol Reed. This is because the film shares screenwriters with an iconic Hitchcock feature: The Lady Vanishes. In fact the stories are similar at least on the surface. Both are thrillers, both take place on moving trains, both star Margaret Lockwood, and both have the characters Charters and Caldicott. Charters and Caldicott provide comic relief to a film that seems pretty light already. The dialogue of these characters is what makes the film for me. Here they are stuck in Germany the day Britain declares war and they are worried about getting their golf clubs back from a friend in Berlin. Never mind that they might not make it out of Germany safely before there is a full on war. Instead it is all about British comic rags, golf clubs and Cricket. They play an integral part in the film’s plot, but that doesn’t matter as much as their chemistry with each other. It is quite cute.

For having one of the first instances of Nazis and even going as far as to depict the concentration camps (although they look more like gentleman prisons. Margaret’s hair never once gets messed up the entire time she is in the camp), this film is pretty airy stuff. It does not mean that it is enjoyable. In fact I felt the performances of Rex Harrison and Paul Henreid were very good. They both play the upright British gentlemen disguised as Nazis quite well. It just turns out that one is actually a Nazi. The depiction of Nazis in this film is actually quite polite. You see their adherence to any kind of authority quite clearly and the British do depict them as not quite as smart as they are, but overall I feel like the Nazis were quite tame in this film. At least compared to later depictions of them. I wonder if this depiction is more closer to the truth than later versions…


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