Sunday, December 04, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Peking Express (1951) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

PEKING EXPRESS (1951), an updated Paramount Pictures remake of the classic film SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932), has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I had no previous familiarity with this film despite it starring Joseph Cotten, an actor I always enjoy.

PEKING EXPRESS is set in Communist China a few years after the end of World War II. Cotten plays Dr. Michael Bachlin, who is in China on behalf of the World Health Organization. The Chinese track his every move, despite the fact he's there to lend humanitarian aid.

When Michael boards a Peking-bound train in Shanghai, he's shocked to be reunited with his old flame Danielle (Corinne Calvet, THE FAR COUNTRY). They had broken up five years before over issues of trust.

As Michael and Danielle tentatively rekindle their romance while the train makes its way to Peking, they must deal with an attempted murder, guerrilla warfare, being held hostage, and more.

I thought this was an enjoyable film, though it lacks the magic and style of the original, which was directed by Josef von Sternberg and starred Marlene Dietrich and Clive Brook. SHANGHAI EXPRESS was a 3-1/2 to 4-star classic, while PEKING EXPRESS is an entertaining enough 2-1/2 to 3-star movie.

PEKING EXPRESS feels too plot-heavy, with too many characters we don't get to know well taking up too much screen time, at the expense of Cotten and Calvet's character and romantic development. That said, I love Cotten and "train movies" and had a pleasant time watching it despite its imperfection.

IMDb says the movie runs 95 minutes but it appears that's an error, as the print I watched seemed complete and was 85 minutes.

The movie was directed by William Dieterle and filmed in black and white by Charles Lang. The script of this Hal Wallis production was by John Meredyth Lucas. The score was by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The supporting cast includes Edmund Gwenn, Marvin Miller, Benson Fong, Soo Yong, Robert W. Lee, and Victor Sen Yung.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks quite good, particularly where the closeups are concerned. The overall film lacks the visual distinction of SHANGHAI EXPRESS -- no fabulous Dietrich-style fashions here -- with the exterior shots looking particularly mundane; however, when the camera lands on Cotten and Calvet we're treated to some gorgeous faces in a beautiful print.

According to Kino Lorber, the disc was "remastered in HD by Paramount from a 4K scan of the 35mm camera fine grain."

Extras are a commentary track by Eddy Von Mueller and half a dozen trailers for additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I saw this film recently for the first time and quite enjoyed it for the exact same reasons you did, Laura. I thought your personalised star ratings for both this remake and "SHANGHAI EXPRESS" put the whole thing in a perfect nutshell!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for sharing your feedback on PEKING EXPRESS, Jerry. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well and that you liked my comparisons!

Best wishes,

10:42 PM  

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