The Train (1964)

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Released 18-Aug-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 127:52
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Frankenheimer
Arthur Penn
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Burt Lancaster
Paul Scofield
Jeanne Moreau
Suzanne Flon
Michel Simon
Wolfgang Preiss
Albert Rémy
Charles Millot
Richard Münch
Jacques Marin
Paul Bonifas
Jean Bouchaud
Donald O'Brien
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Maurice Jarre


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Train is a suspense thriller set during the last days of the German occupation of France during World War II. Colonel von Waldheim (Paul Scofield) is an obsessive art lover who has ensured the preservation of a large collection of degenerate art that would normally have been destroyed by the Nazis. When the Allies close in on Paris and the Germans begin to evacuate, von Waldheim attempts to get hold of a train to ship the paintings to Germany.

    The collection is curated by Mlle Villard (Suzanne Flon), who informs the Resistance about the intended shipment. They are reluctant to help given that they are just paintings, whereas the Germans are also sending arms, men and equipment on the trains as well. The local Resistance leader is Labiche (Burt Lancaster), who is also the station master. He assigns the oldest train driver available, Papa Boule (Michel Simon), to the art train but Boule has his own ideas about what to do with it. Labiche finds himself reluctantly drawn into a battle of wits and wills with von Waldheim to prevent the paintings from leaving France.

    A lot of critics rate this film very highly, with Leonard Maltin giving it four stars (out of four), but I found that on a second viewing after many years, my first impressions were confirmed, and that this film falls somewhat short of the hype. There are some exceptional sequences, like the bombing of the rail yard which is as good as any similar sequence in any film I have seen, and the collision of two locomotives done with real trains. The actors all try very hard and the film is very well directed and shot. The problem for me is twofold. Firstly, the film has a cast of familiar French supporting actors, most of whom are dubbed. Apart from Suzanne Flon, most are given voices that do not suit them and are in American-accented English which I find disconcerting. Perhaps of more concern is the half-hearted attempt to add some sort of "significance" to the story, with Labiche's concern for people rather than art contrasted with von Waldheim's obsession with the paintings at the cost of everything else. The latter's speech at the end about his appreciation of art over that of the Frenchman stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. I found myself not caring much about Labiche or the artworks, and I did not find von Waldheim to be anything more than a caricature.

    Those reservations aside, this is still an entertaining film. It moves quickly and is reasonably exciting. The performances are not bad, with Lancaster toning down his usual mannerisms and making a believable hero, though not a believable railroad controller. He performed virtually all of his own stunts for the film, suffering an injured leg in the process, hence his limp. Scofield is reasonable as von Waldheim, though the role does not give him a lot to work with. Veteran French star Michel Simon looks the part as Boule, but unfortunately the dubbing gets in the way. Jeanne Moreau has a relatively small role as the proprietress of a hotel who helps Labiche out. Wolfgang Preiss, a veteran of popular German films made during the war, is excellent as the realist Major Herren.

    The film was well directed by John Frankenheimer, brought in after Arthur Penn was sacked in the pre-production phase. The action sequences all work very well, something for which the director was noted. While based on a true story, the events depicted in the film are fictional. The real art train never left Paris, delayed by French bureaucrats and forced onto a circular track around the city. Not something out of which a suspense film could easily be fashioned.

    In summary, a thriller that does not quite live up to its pretensions, but can be enjoyed nonetheless.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Unfortunately, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Despite the lack of 16x9 enhancement, the transfer is reasonably sharp, though not ideally so. Detail levels are good and viewers without widescreen displays will probably not be fazed by the lack of widescreen enhancement. However, when zoomed in on a 16x9 television the problems inherent in the transfer are magnified.

    This is a black and white film, so there are no colour issues to speak of. Contrast levels are good and there are some very dark blacks on view. White levels are also good. Shadow detail is reasonable.

    Disappointingly, there is a lot of aliasing in this transfer. There is a shimmer of some description in most scenes. Diagonal edges tend to be jagged, for example the peaked caps of the German officers. Telecine wobble is apparent throughout the entire film. There are also some examples of excessive noise reduction at 1:35 and 16:30.

    The film is unrestored and has lots of dirt, flecks and scratches visible throughout. There are reel change markings at 16:55 and 56:20, and a pale white line visible at 52:32.

    Optional English subtitles are provided, which match the dialogue and are clearly readable. However, only the top line of the subtitles is visible when the image is zoomed in on a widescreen television.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change positioned at 66:20 in the middle of a shot, but it is only slightly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film features a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack.

    The audio is just adequate, with clear dialogue most of the time and a typical mono presentation. Higher frequencies tend to sound thin, but there are reasonable bass levels, which helps with the explosions. Audio sync is not so good, as you would expect given a lot of the cast is dubbed. There is some hiss and distortion present, the latter quite marked at 40:00. There is also an audio glitch at 12:36, with the audio sounding garbled.

    The music score is an excellent one by Maurice Jarre, a fine orchestral score with military elements that adds a lot to the enjoyment of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (4:25)

    The sole extra is an original trailer, which is pretty good but gives away a lot of the plot, so is best left unwatched until after the feature.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release does not have 16x9 enhancement either, but does get the following extras in addition to the trailer:

    A clear win for Region 1.

Summary

    A good thriller with some fine action sequences.

    The video quality is average, not helped by a lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    The audio quality is adequate.

    There are no substantial extras, unlike the Region 1 equivalent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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