Night Train to Munich

Last updated

Night Train to Munich
Night Train to Munich Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Carol Reed
Screenplay by
Based onReport on a Fugitive
1939 short story
by Gordon Wellesley
Produced by Edward Black
Cinematography Otto Kanturek
Edited by R. E. Dearing
Music by Louis Levy
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 26 July 1940 (1940-07-26)(UK)
  • 29 December 1940 (1940-12-29)(USA)
Running time
95 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States

Night Train to Munich is a 1940 British-American thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the 1939 short story Report on a Fugitive by Gordon Wellesley, the film is about an inventor and his daughter who are kidnapped by the Gestapo after the Nazis march into Prague in the prelude to the Second World War. A British secret service agent follows them, disguised as a senior German army officer pretending to woo the daughter over to the Nazi cause. [2]



As German forces take over Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Axel Bomasch, a Czechoslovak scientist working on a new type of armour-plating, is flown to Britain. Bomasch's daughter, Anna, is arrested before she can reach the airport and sent to a concentration camp, where she is interrogated by Nazis who are pursuing her father. Anna refuses to cooperate. Soon she is befriended by a fellow prisoner named Karl Marsen, who says he is a teacher imprisoned for his political views. Together they are able to escape and make their way to London. Marsen is in fact a Gestapo agent assigned to gain her trust and locate her father.

Following Marsen's suggestion, Anna places a cryptic newspaper advertisement to let her father know she is in the country. Soon after, she gets an anonymous phone call with instructions to go to the town of Brightbourne. There, Anna contacts Dickie Randall, a British intelligence officer working undercover as an entertainer named Gus Bennett. Randall takes Anna to her father, who is now working for the Royal Navy at the fictional Dartland naval base. Anna argues with Randall over her attempt to post a letter to Marsen (with an informative postmark). It does not matter, as Dr. John Fredericks, Marsen's undercover superior in London, had tailed her to Brightbourne.

Soon after, Marsen arranges the kidnapping of Anna and her father, and brings them back to Germany by U-boat. Their captors threaten to put her in a concentration camp if Bomasch refuses to work for the Nazis. Meanwhile, Randall's proposal to rescue the Bomasches is (unofficially) accepted. He travels to Berlin and infiltrates the building where the Bomasches are being held, posing as Major Ulrich Herzog of the Corps of Engineers. He dupes Captain Prada and Admiral Hassinger into believing he was Anna's lover years ago and can persuade her to get her father to co-operate. Randall spends the night with Anna in her hotel room to maintain the pretense. When the Bomasches are ordered sent to Munich, he plans to accompany them and arrange their escape. However, Marsen shows up just as they are about to leave the hotel; he has been assigned to escort them to Munich.

Randall's situation is further complicated at the railway station, where he is recognised by a former classmate named Caldicott, who is leaving Germany with his friend Charters. Randall denies knowing Caldicott, but Marsen's suspicions are aroused. When the train makes an unscheduled stop (brought to a halt by a railway station guard played by Irene Handl in an early uncredited bit part) to take on troops, as war has just been declared between Britain and Germany, Marsen takes the opportunity to telephone his headquarters to have Herzog investigated. When Marsen's superiors call back to confirm there is no Major Herzog, Charters, attempting to use another telephone, overhears that Randall will be arrested when they reach Munich.

The two Englishmen barely manage to reboard the train before it leaves. Caldicott slips a warning to Randall, who is thus prepared when Marsen pulls out a gun as they near Munich. Charters and Caldicott overpower first the two guards, then Marsen. After swapping uniforms with Marsen, Randall commandeers a car. They speed up a mountain road, with Marsen and his men in hot pursuit. They reach an aerial tramway; at the other end is neutral Switzerland. Randall manages to shoot all of their pursuers except Marsen, while Anna and the others escape on the tram. Randall then boards the other tram and exchanges shots with Marsen. Marsen reverses the direction of Randall's tram, but he manages to jump to the other tram as it passes. When he hits Marsen in the leg, the latter is either unable, or unwilling, to reach the controls and stop Randall from reaching safety. Randall and Anna embrace.



This was the last of the several films that Margaret Lockwood made for Carol Reed. Their professional relationship ended after she turned down the female lead in Kipps . [3]


The film premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on 26 July 1940. [1]

Critical reception

The film has a rating of 88% "Fresh" on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 critic reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. [4] Prior to the film's initial release, a review by Variety noted that "[m]uch of the film’s merit obviously stems from the compact, propulsive screenplay ... and the razor-edge direction", adding that "[t]here are countless touches of atmosphere and comedy that add immeasurable flavor and zest to the picture". [5]

Simon Abrams of Slant Magazine wrote of the film: "Come for Carol Reed's name, stay for Rex Harrison's performance and a few good cheap shots at the Nazis". [6] Stephen Mayne of PopMatters wrote that the film is "more than just a rerun of The Lady Vanishes ", stating that it "overcomes wobbly moments by being so persistently fun". [7]

Home media

The film was released on LaserDisc by the Roan Group on 14 February 1995. [8] A VHS release followed on 11 February 1997 by Kino Video. [9] It was released on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection on 29 June 2010 and 6 September 2016, respectively. [10]

Comparison to The Lady Vanishes

The film has been compared to The Lady Vanishes, with the Princeton academic Michael Wood describing it as an "ironic remake"; the publicity at the time of release erroneously claimed it is a sequel. [11] [12] It has a similar situation in a war-torn continental Europe and both have scripts by Launder and Gilliat. The two slightly eccentric and cricket-mad English travellers, Charters and Caldicott, are carried over. The films are otherwise similar in setting, and both feature similar lead character types: the damsel in distress and eccentric upper-class British gentlemen spy, manifesting in the first film as Iris (played by Margaret Lockwood) and Gilbert and in the second as Anna Bomasch (also played by Lockwood) and Dickie Randall.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Naunton Wayne</span> Welsh actor

Naunton Wayne, was a Welsh character actor, born in Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales. He was educated at Clifton College. His name was changed by deed poll in 1933.

The year 1940 in film involved some significant events, including the premieres of the Walt Disney films Pinocchio and Fantasia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaret Lockwood</span> British stage and film actress

Margaret Mary Day Lockwood, CBE, was an English actress. One of Britain's most popular film stars of the 1930s and 1940s, her film appearances included The Lady Vanishes (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), The Man in Grey (1943), and The Wicked Lady (1945). She was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress for the 1955 film Cast a Dark Shadow. She also starred in the television series Justice (1971–74).

Sidney Gilliat was an English film director, producer and writer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phyllis Calvert</span> British film actress (1915–2002)

Phyllis Hannah Murray-Hill, known professionally as Phyllis Calvert, was an English film, stage and television actress. She was one of the leading stars of the Gainsborough melodramas of the 1940s such as The Man in Grey (1943) and was one of the most popular movie stars in Britain in the 1940s. She continued her acting career for another 50 years.

<i>The Mortal Storm</i> 1940 film by Frank Borzage

The Mortal Storm is a 1940 American drama film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by Frank Borzage and stars Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart. The film shows the impact on Germans after Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany and gains unlimited power. The supporting cast features Robert Young, Robert Stack, Frank Morgan, Dan Dailey, Ward Bond and Maria Ouspenskaya.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basil Radford</span> English actor

Arthur Basil Radford was an English character actor who featured in many British films of the 1930s and 1940s.

<i>The Lady Vanishes</i> 1938 film by Alfred Hitchcock

The Lady Vanishes is a 1938 British mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, the film is about a beautiful English tourist travelling by train in continental Europe who discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, the two proceeding to search the train for clues to the old lady's disappearance.

<i>The Lady Vanishes</i> (1979 film) 1979 film by Anthony Page

The Lady Vanishes is a 1979 British comedy mystery film directed by Anthony Page. Its screenplay by George Axelrod was based on the screenplay of 1938's The Lady Vanishes by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, which in turn was based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White. It stars Elliott Gould as Robert, Cybill Shepherd as Amanda (Iris), Angela Lansbury as Miss Froy, Herbert Lom, and Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael as Charters and Caldicott.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charters and Caldicott</span> Fictional characters

Charters and Caldicott started out as two supporting characters in the 1938 Alfred Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes. The pair of cricket-obsessed characters were played by Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford. The characters were created by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. The duo became very popular and were used as recurring characters in subsequent films and in BBC Radio productions. Charters and Caldicott have also been played by other actors including eventually their own BBC television series.

Crook's Tour is a 1941 black and white British film directed by John Baxter featuring Charters and Caldicott. It is adapted from a BBC radio serial of the same name.

Edward Black was a British film producer, best known for being head of production at Gainsborough Studios in the late 1930s and early 1940s, during which time he oversaw production of the Gainsborough melodramas. He also produced such classic films as The Lady Vanishes (1938). Black has been called "one of the unsung heroes of the British film industry." In 1946 Mason called Black "the one good production executive" that J. Arthur Rank had. Frank Launder called Black "a great showman and yet he had a great feeling for scripts and spent more time on them than anyone I have ever known. His experimental films used to come off as successful as his others."

<i>The Man I Married</i> 1940 American film

The Man I Married is an American 1940 drama film starring Joan Bennett and Francis Lederer.

<i>Midshipman Easy</i> 1935 British film

Midshipman Easy is a 1935 British adventure film directed by Carol Reed and starring Hughie Green, Margaret Lockwood and Harry Tate. The screenplay concerns a young man who runs away from home, joins the navy and goes to sea in the 1790s. He rescues a captive woman from a Spanish ship and battles pirates and smugglers. The film was based on the novel Mr Midshipman Easy (1836) by Frederick Marryat.

<i>Bank Holiday</i> (film) 1938 film by Carol Reed

Bank Holiday is a 1938 British drama film directed by Carol Reed and starring John Lodge, Margaret Lockwood, Hugh Williams and Kathleen Harrison.

<i>Quiet Wedding</i> 1941 film by Anthony Asquith

Quiet Wedding is a 1941 British romantic comedy film directed by Anthony Asquith and starring Margaret Lockwood, Derek Farr and Marjorie Fielding. The screenplay was written by Terence Rattigan and Anatole de Grunwald based on the play Quiet Wedding by Esther McCracken. The film was remade in 1958 as Happy Is the Bride.

Highly Dangerous is a 1950 British spy film starring Margaret Lockwood. The screenplay was written by Eric Ambler.

<i>A Girl Must Live</i> 1939 film by Carol Reed

A Girl Must Live is a 1939 British romantic comedy film directed by Carol Reed that stars Margaret Lockwood, Renee Houston, Lilli Palmer, Hugh Sinclair, and Naunton Wayne. Based on a 1936 novel by Emery Bonett with the same title, the plot features three chorus line girls competing for the affection of a wealthy bachelor.

<i>State Secret</i> (1950 film) 1950 British film

State Secret is a 1950 British drama film directed by Sidney Gilliat and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Jack Hawkins, Glynis Johns, Olga Lowe and Herbert Lom. It was made at Isleworth Studios with Italian location shooting in Trento and the Dolomites. It was released in the United States under the title The Great Manhunt.

<i>The Girl in the News</i> 1940 British thriller film

The Girl in the News is a 1940 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood, Barry K. Barnes and Emlyn Williams.


  1. 1 2 "Basil Radford & Naunton Wayne". Art & Hue.
  2. Hal Erickson (2010). "Night Train to Munich (1940)". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . Archived from the original on 1 July 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  3. Vagg, Stephen (29 January 2020). "Why Stars Stop Being Stars: Margaret Lockwood". Filmink.
  4. "Night Train to Munich (Gestapo) (1940)". Rotten Tomatoes . Fandango Media . Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  5. "Review: 'Night Train to Munich'". Variety . 31 December 1939. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  6. Simon Abrams (21 June 2010). "Night Train to Munich - DVD Review". Slant Magazine . Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  7. Stephen Mayne (19 October 2016). "'Night Train to Munich' Is a Journey Worth Taking". PopMatters . Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  8. "Night Train to Munich". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  9. Night Train to Munich [VHS]. ASIN   630433740X.
  10. "Night Train to Munich (1940)". The Criterion Collection . Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  11. Michael Wood "At the Movies: Odd Man Out", London Review of Books, 28:20, 19 October 2006, p.16
  12. Trevor Hogg "A Great Reed: A Carol Reed Profile (Part 1)", Flickering Myth, 21 October 2009