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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Conversation from 2010 between film scholars Peter Evans and Bruce Babington about director Carol Reed, screenwriters Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and the social and political climate in which Night Train to Munich was made
  • Insert featuring an essay by film critic Philip Kemp

Night Train to Munich

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Carol Reed
1940 | 95 Minutes | Licensor: 20th Century Fox

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #523
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: September 6, 2016
Review Date: September 1, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

Night Train to Munich, from writers Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat and director Carol Reed, is a twisting, turning, cloak-and-dagger delight. Paced like an out-of-control locomotive, this gripping, occasionally comic confection takes viewers on a World War II–era journey from Prague to England to the Swiss Alps, as Nazis pursue a Czech scientist and his daughter (Margaret Lockwood), who are being aided by a debonair British undercover agent, played by Rex Harrison. This captivating adventure—which also features Casablanca’s Paul Henreid—mixes comedy, romance, and thrills with enough skill and cleverness to give the Master of Suspense himself pause.


PICTURE

Criterion upgrades their DVD edition of Carol Reed’s Night Train to Munich to Blu-ray, presenting the film in the aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz presentation comes from a high-definition scan of the 35mm duplicate negative.

This looks to be another case where Criterion is reusing the same master used for their original DVD, though this one, like the recent Woman in the Dunes, holds up very well and looks pretty good in full high-definition. The image isn’t the sharpest one I’ve seen to be sure, with the finer details getting a little lost, but detail is generally good, the image presenting clean edges and textures that come off decent enough. Contrast looks fine but there can be a certain flatness to the image that I blame on a not so robust gray scale, but the black levels at least look black, and crushing isn’t a concern. Film grain is present and even if it does look a little clunky in places and not as fine as one might expect, it’s at least not noisy or pixelated.

The restoration work has been quite thorough and—not counting the archival footage used in the film, which can look a bit more rough in comparison to the rest of the film—there’s very little remaining in the way of damage. What does remain is limited primarily to fine scratches and faint tram lines, which are actually a bit more visible here in comparison to the DVD because of the improved resolution. But the most noticeable issue, outside of these other minor flaws, comes at chapter 17, where the image looks to bubble out rather quickly, which warps and shifts the image, but only for a second. It happens between cuts and I suspect (though can’t confirm) it’s during a reel change. This was also present on the DVD.

In terms of an upgrade over the DVD version it’s about what one would expect, at a minimum anyways. The DVD looked pretty good to begin with, its main flaw being (other than that infernal window-boxing practice they applied to all Academy ratio films at the time) it was just limited by the format and its compression. So even if the upgrade isn’t substantial, at the very least it offers improved resolution, and the compression is better managed, allowing the image to look more filmic.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The mono track is now presented in lossless PCM 1.0 mono. I couldn’t detect too big of an upgrade, and I don’t know how much further restoration may have been put into it, but it still has a few of the same problems. Though dialogue is easy to hear and not distorted itself, the audio is still fairly flat and there is an audible hiss in the background. Music can come off a bit edgy as well. Still, no severe pops, drops, or cracks.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The title was previously released as a “budget” release from Criterion, with only one feature (the lower tier of $29.95 was usually used for titles that had no or only a handful of features). Criterion ports over the one feature on the DVD to here, though doesn’t adjust the price accordingly. That feature is a conversation about the film between authors Bruce Babington and Peter Evans. It was filmed for this release, and Criterion, possibly trying to get a little more exciting in filming their interviews, films it in a train car cabin. It’s over 29-minutes but comes off fairly light. The two carry on a conversation about the film, including its social commentary, presentation of the classes, humour, and its historical context. They of course touch on the politics at the time, the war, and defend the rather light presentation of German concentration camps, the true horrors of which wouldn’t become well known until years later. They mention the careers of writers Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, who both previously worked on Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, before then getting into the career of director Carol Reed. They make some comparisons between Night Train to Munich and The Lady Vanishes, specifically in the characters, and of course talk briefly about Charters and Caldicott, who were fairly popular characters who appeared in a number of films. While there is some interesting information, and some decent analysis, it’s not truly probing and come off a little light. Watching it again I find it an okay addition but not a necessity.

The booklet from the DVD is scrapped and replaced with a smaller insert (some photos from the booklet have been excised) featuring the same essay by Philip Kemp. In it he repeats a little of what was covered in the disc’s sole feature. Despite this it’s still a good read, and actually gets into more detail about the performers and the careers of the film’s director and writers.

And there you have it. I would have almost expected Criterion to maybe add something new to it, but alas, no.

2/10

CLOSING

For those who already own the DVD edition I will say the image offers a nice upgrade, though not a very substantial one; at the very least it does offer a sharper image thanks to the higher resolution, improves compression considerably, and drops the ghastly black border. But I can’t say any other aspect has been improved upon: the sound isn’t any better and the supplements (or I should say supplement-minus-the-“s”) is the same one, no new material added (and the release still costs more than the DVD). Ultimately, for those who haven’t yet purchased the film and are looking to get it, I would still direct them to the Blu-ray, but at a sale price.


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