TCM: Friday 22 May, 3pm
Bellicose Burt Lancaster helps the French Resistance in an audacious attempt to prevent the Nazis taking great works of art by train from France to Berlin. Superbly mounted wartime suspense drama with memorable contributions from Paul Scofield (Nazi) and Jeanne Moreau (nice). Disappointed at the reaction to his performance in Luchino Visconti’s arthouse extravaganza The Leopard, Lancaster had The Train’s original director Arthur Penn replaced by his friend John Frankenheimer. They’d already worked together on The Young Savages, Birdman of Alcatraz, and Seven Days in May, and would so again in The Gypsy Moths. Orson Welles likened making movies to being in charge of a giant toyshop and Frankenheimer here took Welles at his word – operated by two experienced French cinematographers, the cameras look on admiringly at the steam engines, panting like weary dragons. And Frankenheimer doesn’t use any model shots in the crash scenes, either. Thrillingly staged from beginning to end, The Train is everything George Clooney’s The Monuments Men so meekly aspired to be. The music is by Maurice Jarre, at his peak in the 1960s: Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, The Professionals, Is Paris Burning? He also worked again with Frankenheimer in the 60s on Grand Prix, The Fixer and The Extraordinary Seaman, the film that effectively kiboshed the first part of Frankenheimer’s career. The hot streak went cold. For three decades. The Euro-thriller Ronin (1998) revived the director’s career for a late surge, culminating in Path to War (2002), a White House drama more powerful than the fictional Seven Days in May.