Berlin Express

Berlin Express

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Cast: Jacques Tourneur, Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan, Charles Korvin

     
 
On a trip from France to Allied-occupied Berlin, a group of travelers -- a mysterious and very secretive European woman (Merle Oberon), an American agricultural expert (Robert Ryan), a British educator (Robert Coote), a Soviet Army officer (Roman Toporow), and a French official (Charles Korvin) -- all cross paths in the cramped quarters of a military train. They

Overview

On a trip from France to Allied-occupied Berlin, a group of travelers -- a mysterious and very secretive European woman (Merle Oberon), an American agricultural expert (Robert Ryan), a British educator (Robert Coote), a Soviet Army officer (Roman Toporow), and a French official (Charles Korvin) -- all cross paths in the cramped quarters of a military train. They discover that the notion of the "Allied forces" is breaking down amid their victory in the war; they neither like nor trust each other, nor each other's countries, except where the Germans are concerned, where they share a distrust. And then they cross paths with a German VIP who makes them wonder if they've got all of the Germans pegged right. A bomb goes off, killing their newfound acquaintance, and the suspicions start anew. The mystery surrounding the victim only deepens when they discover that he wasn't who he claimed to be -- and that the army isn't saying who he was. Ryan, Oberon, et al. soon find themselves up to their necks in unrepentant Nazis and militant German nationalists who have banded together against the occupiers to destroy any chance of success for a peace plan being put forward by a visionary German (Paul Lukas). They find Frankfurt a hotbed of sabotage and armed underground resistance, with the occupying armies seemingly caught flat-footed by the plotting in their midst, which includes murder and blackmail. Berlin Express is a spellbinding mix of action, suspense, and topical political intrigue, laced with idealism and a surprising degree of sophistication, a level a wit almost worthy of Graham Greene, and an eye for suspense worthy of Hitchcock. Indeed, the film could almost be considered director Jacques Tourneur's postwar equivalent to Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940). It also represents a fascinating cultural snapshot, depicting the very last moments of hope for peaceful relations with the Soviets that could be seen in American movies for decades.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Jacques Tourneur's Berlin Express came out of that same school of thriller-making that generated Henry Hathaway's The House on 92nd Street at Fox, except that it was a lot better and more exciting. The extensive use of location footage, the documentary-style shooting and narration, and the reliance on strict verisimilitude all recall Hathaway's movie, as well as Alfred Werker's and Anthony Mann's He Walked by Night. Unlike the Fox film, Berlin Express was fiction, a thriller of today (in 1948), and it was able to engage in storytelling on a level that no fact-based thriller would permit of its script. Indeed, the location shooting in occupied postwar Germany and the turmoil of postwar France, coupled with a script that alternates between the subtle comedy of human foibles and the bitterness and distrust in the air in the period immediately after the war, make the opening 25 minutes of Berlin Express feel like a dry-run for Carol Reed's The Third Man. The tone isn't nearly as wry as Reed's movie, but the basic idea and mix is there, juxtaposed with a police procedural tone similar to He Walked by Night -- and in place of the romantic triangle at the center of the Reed movie, there is a top-flight spy thriller. Curt Siodmak's script could easily be the best of his entire career, by turns (and sometimes even simultaneously) comedic, serious, and sardonic. The tone turns decidedly grimmer around 45 minutes into the film, and from there, we get a more intensely serious film, with two scenes (one involving a mortally wounded man in a clown suit who is trying to pass along vital information in front of a laughing audience, and the other a mirror shot) that are as good as anything Alfred Hitchcock ever conceived. Tourneur handles his actors as well as his action beautifully, Merle Oberon sacrificing some of her glamorous image for a serious acting role and Robert Ryan, Robert Coote, Charles Korvin (later a blacklistee), and Roman Toporow melting into their portrayals of Allied representatives who are roped into the case. In the ruins of Frankfurt and Berlin, cinematographer Lucien Ballard does some of his best work, shooting in such locations as the narrow corridors of a darkened train and the wreckage of a bombed out brewery.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/01/2009
UPC:
0883316203408
Original Release:
1948
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Presentation:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Time:
1:26:00
Sales rank:
14,503

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Merle Oberon Lucienne
Robert Ryan Robert Lindley
Charles Korvin Perrot
Paul Lukas Dr. H. Bernhardt
Robert Coote Sterling
Reinhold Schünzel Walther
Roman Toporow Lt. Maxim
Peter Von Zerneck Hans Schmidt
Otto Waldis Kessler
Fritz Kortner Franzen
Michael Martin Harvey Sgt. Barnes
Richard Powers Major
Jim Nolan Train Captain
Arthur Dulac Dining Car Steward
Ray Spiker 1st Husky
Bruce Cameron 2nd Husky
Charles McGraw Col. Johns
Buddy Roosevelt M.P. Sergeant
David Clarke Army Technician
Roger Creed M.P.
Gene Evans Train Sergeant
Robert "Buddy" Shaw Sergeant
Norbert Schiller Saxophone Player
Richard Flato Master of Ceremonies
Allan Ray Corporal
George Holt German
Bill Raisch German
Carl Ekberg German
Jim Drum 2nd G.I.
William Yetter 1st German Youth
Robert Boon 2nd German Youth
Rory Mallinson M.P. Gaurd
Fernanda Eliscu German Woman
Larry Nunn 1st G.I.
Hans Moebus Clerk
Frank Alten German Steward
Leonid Snegoff Russian Colonel
James Craven British Major
Fred Datig American Jeep Driver
William Stelling American Sergeant
Tom Keene Major

Technical Credits
Jacques Tourneur Director
Constantin Bakaleinikoff Musical Direction/Supervision
Lucien Ballard Cinematographer
Gordon Bau Makeup
Russell A. Cully Special Effects
Albert S. D'Agostino Art Director
Bert Granet Producer
John C. Grubb Sound/Sound Designer
Alfred Herman Art Director
Frederick Hollander Score Composer
Harold Medford Screenwriter
Charles O'Curran Choreography
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Harry Perry Special Effects
Clem Portman Sound/Sound Designer
Darrell Silvera Set Decoration/Design
Curt Siodmak Original Story
William L. Stevens Set Decoration/Design
Harold E. Stine Special Effects
Sherman Todd Editor

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