Jacques Tourneur at the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival, with a double bill featuring Tourneur's CIRCLE OF DANGER (1951) and BERLIN EXPRESS (1948).
I first reviewed CIRCLE OF DANGER in 2012 and liked it even better the second time; knowing the ending from the outset was a plus for me, and I found the movie a little easier to follow this time around.
CIRCLE OF DANGER stars Ray Milland as an American who travels all over England, Wales, and Scotland searching for answers regarding his brother's mysterious death during the war. In his spare time he romances a lovely children's author played by Patricia Roc. Marius Goring is particularly memorable as the sharp-tongued commando-turned-ballet choreographer. The movie was screened in an excellent 35mm print. I very much hope this movie will come out on DVD at some point in the future.
A multinational group of people on a train become involved in attempting to save Dr. Bernardt's life, including an American from the Agriculture Department (Robert Ryan), a Brit (Robert Coote), and a Russian soldier (Roman Toporow). Dr. Bernardt's secretary, Lucienne (Merle Oberon), is also a key player.
The film also suffers a bit from too many characters introduced in too short a time, without a chance for the audience to get to know them. It helps that the "types" are played by actors like Robert Ryan and Robert Coote, but the theme of international teamwork works against the movie a bit as the audience isn't particularly invested in any one character. They're pleasant enough to watch but it's more of a surface relationship between viewers and characters, although a couple of harrowing moments near the end do provide an emotional jolt.
In his introduction, Alan Rode said that camera equipment was in such short supply in postwar Germany that Billy Wilder had to wait for cinematographer Lucien Ballard and company to wrap up filming BERLIN EXPRESS before he could start shooting another film notable for its postwar Germany locations, A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948).
It's interesting to note that BERLIN EXPRESS has some overtones of early Hitchcock, inasmuch as it's a "train" film with one of the stars of THE LADY VANISHES (1938), Paul Lukas. The movie also felt a bit like the postwar flip side of FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), what with the kidnapping of a key figure in a peace movement.
BERLIN EXPRESS runs 87 minutes. The supporting cast includes Charles Korvin, Richard Powers (aka Tom Keene), Reinhold Schunzel, and Charles McGraw, with narration by Paul Stewart.
For more on director Tourneur, please visit my review of the book JACQUES TOURNEUR: THE CINEMA OF NIGHTFALL by Chris Fujiwara, which includes links to my reviews of additional films directed by Jacques Tourneur.
BERLIN EXPRESS is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.