Rome Express (1932) | All aboard the darnest smash of yesteryear
This Grand Hotel on rails comedy thriller pulled in rave reviews on its release in 1932, with critics calling it the finest British film made to date, while it gave director Walter Forde his finest feature in his career.
On the famed Trans-European Rome Express train heading out of Paris, an assortment of passengers find themselves getting caught up in theft of a stolen Van Dyke painting, including a couple of adulterous lovers and a boorish golfer, a millionaire philanthropist and his downtrodden secretary, an overworked American screen starlet and her pushy publicist, and a couple of career criminals. But when the thief is murdered, a vacationing French Police Chief has to sift through the secrets and lies to get to the bottom of the case…
A hugely ambitious undertaking for Gaumont Pictures (and the first to be shot at the refurbished Shepherd’s Bush studios), Rome Express became a commercial and critical success, and helped put the wheels on genre thrillers like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Carol Reed’s Night Train To Munich (1940), and was remade in 1948 as Sleeping Car to Trieste.
Dodgy backscreen projection and model train shots aside, cinematographer Günther Krampf (who worked on Nosferatu, The Ghoul) provides some lively tracking shots to give the melodrama a naturalistic veneer, which also affords Forde the chance for some humorous social comment (mostly at the expense of religion and the gluttony of the upper classes); while Sidney Gilliat and Frank Vosper’s cracking script is a winning cocktail of comedy, romance and intrigue – filled with some genuinely tense moments (especially the poker scene).
And this is all complemented by the colourful characters played by an multi-national cast, including Conrad Veidt (at his murderous best as the villainous Zurta), Cedric Hardwicke (as the miserly tycoon who might have been the inspiration for The Simpsons’ Mr Burns), and silent film star Esther Ralston (who looks ravishing in those divine period frocks).
Presented here in a brand new high definition transfer from original film elements in its as-exhibited aspect ratio, Rome Express is a great addition to Network’s The British Film collection. An image gallery and original promotional material (pdf) are also included as bonus extras.
Posted on December 18, 2015, in British Film, Classic, Comedy, Must See, Must-See, Thriller and tagged 1930s British film, British Film, Comedy thriller, Must See, Thriller. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.