Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“Berlin Express”

Director: Jacques Tourneur 1948
A neglected gem via TCM. Not on DVD, but worth setting TiVo for the next airing. Tourneur was a master of light and dark (“Cat People,” “Out of the Past”), and this movie--shot on location in Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin shortly after World War ll—displays his vision throughout (the cinematographer was Lucien Ballard, who went on to shoot numerous classics, including “The Wild Bunch”). The scenes on the streets of the shell-shocked German cities, buildings reduced to skeletons or mounds of rubble, have documentary quality. These scenes must have inspired Carol Reed when he directed “The Third Man.”
The story revolves around the search for a prominent German who espouses peace and unification. The bad guys are the best bad guys you could wish for: Nazis. There’s an obvious hope here that the missing German’s philosophy would become real: the heroes are an American (the underappreciated Robert Ryan), a Russian, an Englishman and a French woman (Merle Oberon, at the time married to Ballard). There are some neat twists. Worth a view, particularly for those amazing scenes of post-war Europe.


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