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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rome Express ( 1932 )

"Romance and Adventure Roaring Through the Night!"

A valuable Van Dyck painting has been stolen from an art museum in Paris and the thief ( Conrad Veidt ) is onboard the Rome Express heading to Italy. This sinister criminal is in search of a Mr. Poole ( Donald Calthrop, Blackmail ) who snatched the painting from him in an attempt to double-cross him. 

There is also a motley band of characters onboard the train whose lives will all intertwine with this criminal during the course of their journey to Rome. There is Asta Marvelle ( Esther Ralston ) a beautiful American movie star; Alistair McBain ( Cedric Hardwicke ) a millionaire philanthropist who is traveling with his secretary Mills ( Eliot Makeham ); a pair of adulterous lovers ( Harold Huth and Joan Barry ); a golfing bore ( Gordon Harker ); and a beetle-hunting police chief ( Frank Vosper ). 

Rome Express was one of the very first thrillers set on a train and it inspired a number of similarly themed films, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes ( 1935 ). Walter Forde beautifully directed this taut little picture and utilized a number of innovative filming tricks including long panning shots and fast cuts between scenes, but what makes it truly stand out is its snappy dialogue by Frank Vosper and Sidney Gilliat who, not surprisingly, also penned the scripts to The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich ( 1940 ).
Rome Express speeds along at a fast pace and is never tiresome. The ending could have been tied up a little more snugly but on the whole, it is good entertainment. The interactions between the various characters, most of whom are strangers to one another, drive the story forward and in this respect, Rome Express is similar to The Ghost Train ( 1931 ), which, not surprisingly, was also directed by Walter Forde. 

Cedric Hardwicke is especially entertaining to watch as the penny-pinching philanthropist who delights in being demeaning to his secretary Mills. And Conrad Veidt, who was making his English-speaking debut, is devilishly charming as the villain. Also in the cast is Hugh Williams and Finlay Currie.
Rome Express is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray through Network Distributing. 

4 comments:

  1. You had me at train, and then you tell me Cedric Hardwicke and Sidney Gilliat! Ho-ho, I can't wait.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it! My sister and I will be watching "Berlin Express" soon because "Rome Express" sparked a thirst for mysteries-on-trains. This genre can be addictive!

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  2. I'm with Caftan Woman. A train movie with Cedric Hardwicke...count me in! Plus, Sidney Gilliat directed one of the greatest movie mysteries of all: Green for Danger.

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    1. How true! I had forgotten all about that gem. If Rome Express was filmed in the 1940s, Alistair Sim would have been a great addition to the cast.

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