Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 9th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1964
Director: John Frankenheimer
Writers: Franklin Coen, Frank Davis
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Jeanne Moreau, Suzanne Flon, Michel Simon, Wolfgang Preiss, Howard Vernon
BluRay released: May 11th, 2015
Approximate running times: 133 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Synopsis: With the American’s quickly approaching, a German Colonel prepares a train to transport French art treasures to Germany. Along the way the French resistance hears of his plan and they do everything they can to ensure that the train never leaves Paris.
The Train was co-written and directed by John Frankenheimer, who’s other notable films include, Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May and Seconds. The score for The Train was composed by Maurice Jarre whose other notable film score include, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and The Damned. The Train’s original director was Arthur Penn who replaced after only day of shooting due to conflicts with this film’s star Burt Lancaster.
Where the majority of war films revolve around a major event which lead to the end of said war being depicted. This is not the case with The Train, a film that focuses more on the resolve a small group of resistance fighters. And though it appears that France is about to be liberated any day now in the film. These resistance fighters who have spent their time waging war from the shadows decide that their job is not done yet until every last German troop have been evicted from their country. Also as a further sense of pride for these French resistance fighters is one last act of defiance against the German’s who are trying to leave town with part of France’s heritage.
The film’s narrative has been meticulously constructed and all of the main players in this game of chess are well defined. Another area where this film excels is how well it holds ones attention despite that bulk of the film confined to primarily a single train. With that being said, this film ability to establish mood and build on mounting tension is inimitable.
One thing that can be said about John Frankenheimer’s direction for The Train is that he is not one to just throw away a shot or a moment. There is a tremendous amount of detail paid to every moment and every frame of film. And though there are way too many amazing moments visually to list them all. There is one scene in particular that epitomizes the essence of this film. It is the scene where Lancaster character takes advantage of a Nazi officers smoking pipe that he has left unattended. Lancaster’s character then uses said pipe to ensure that it jams the lever needed to switch trains from one track to the next. And when said sabotage goes off as planned the Nazi officer whose pipe was used has to quickly come up with a reason that deflects the blame from him.
From a performance stand point the entire cast are all great in their respective roles. The most surprising performance comes from Wolfgang Preiss (Mill of the Stone Women, The Fifth Cord) in the role of the German Colonel who is hell bent on getting France’s priceless art treasures on a train and safely to Germany. Another performance of note is Burt Lancaster (The Killers, The Swimmer) in the role of Labiche, a Frenchmen who is in charge of the train yard where the majority of the sabotage occurs. Also the cast features many recognizable faces like Jeanne Moreau (Viva Maria!, The Bride Wore Black), Michel Simon (Beauty and the Devil) and Howard Vernon (French Sex Murders, The Blood Rose).
The Train comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Black and contrast levels look solid throughout and details look crisp. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and there is a healthy layer of grain throughout.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and the second audio option is the films isolated score. The audio sounds clear and balanced throughout. Range wise things sound very good, especially the film’s score and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack fare well. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (4 minutes 24 seconds), premier footage (1 minute 1 seconds, in French with English subtitles), a French television news report on the Making of The Train (7 minutes 55 seconds, in French with English subtitles), an interview with Michel Simon (3 minutes 18 seconds, in French with English subtitles), a featurette titled ‘Burt Lancaster in the 1960’s’ (36 minutes 20 seconds) and an audio commentary with director John Frankenheimer.
The topics discussed in the interview with Michel Simon are limited to the difficulties that arose during the scenes where his character’s train refuses to stop during an air raid.
The extra titled ‘Burt Lancaster in the 1960’s’ is essentially an interview with Burt Lancaster biographer Kate Buford who gives a well-rounded overview of Lancaster’s career. With the bulk of this extra focusing on the films that he made during the 1960’s.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, how he shot the opening scene with a focus on the art that being stolen as characters in their own right, how he would have shot said shots in the film if he had today’s advancements in filmmaking, how this was his last film shot in black & white, the cast, what sequences where the most difficulty to shoot, his favorite moments in the film, his thoughts on the final product and how is changed his course as a filmmaker.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a twenty eight page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about the film titled ‘A feat of Engineering’ written by Sheldon Hall, contemporary reviews and information about the transfer. Overall The Train gets a solid release from Arrow Academy, highly recommended.