Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Von Ryan's Express (1965)

Director: Mark Robson

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard, Raffaella Carra, James Brolin, Adolfo Celi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Why did 600 Allied prisoners hate the man they called Von Ryan more than they hated Hitler?

Plot: At the height of World War II, a group of Allied POWs escapes an Italian prison with the help of an idealistic American leader (Sinatra), whose style clashes with that of his second in command (Howard). Just a few steps from freedom, the men are captured again -- this time by German troops. A series of twists and turns drives them to commandeer the very train that's transporting them to certain death.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

It's been a gazillion years since I saw this and it holds up as well as my memory serves. I really dig the 60s big screen, big budget WWII pictures. I'm not saying they're all good or that there weren't better, smaller budget movies to be seen. VON RYAN'S EXPRESS is certainly an entertaining flick with Sinatra and Howard as two different and likable fellas that work their way through a picture with enough humor, action and suspense to keep your ass from getting sore for a couple of hours.

We're only in the POW cam for about the first half hour and then IT'S ON! OK, it's sort of on. It's this weighty middle hour of the film that drags. It's all guys on a train stuff trying to get through scheduled enemy stops that gets a bit long in the tooth but the explosive climax tries valiantly hard to make up for it. I hear the ending strays from the novel completely (well, at least one aspect) and I agree with Sinatra's decision to have it that way but for some of the wrong reasons. But really, there needed to be redemption for killing a woman; a woman who tried to have them all killed? Whatever.

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