Saturday, February 20, 2016

THE PARIS EXPRESS (1952)


This British color film, released in 1953 for the American market as, “The Man Who Watched Trains Go By,” opens with a group of bicyclists waiting a train’s crossing. Claude Rains is one of the bike commuters. He gazes down the tracks after it passes dreaming of travel to far off cities. He is a meek, senior citizen head clerk at a highly respectable company, spending his entire working life slaving over the firm’s accounting books. And they are perfect. A dull man with predictable habits, his employer, Herbert Lom, is the antithesis. An arrogant, self-possessed scoundrel who treats Rains like a subordinate. A mere office boy.

Rains soon learns Lom’s secret of embezzling the entire company’s fortune on a Paris love interest, played by Marta Toren. Rains has caught them in an intimate embrace once before. Moments before Lom makes his final departure for Paris, Rains confronts him. He demands an answer. The two men push and shove until Lom accidentally trips backward into a canal and drowns. Consumed with temptation and a rye smile, Rains takes Lom's suitcase with the company's fortune and catches the film’s title train. The train on which he has dreamed of someday riding.



Thus begins his downward spiral into a dark and seedy world in which he has no experience. Not very convincingly, Rains’ lies about why he is in Paris. Mild mannered people can also commit crimes but they do not make good liars. He dreams that Toren will fall in love with him. She laughs at the old man until she discovers all that cash. At which point she fawns over him. She assumes he has killed Lom and enlists her boyfriend to cook up a plan to get the cash whatever it takes. An inspector is on the trail of both. Toren, for her part in an ongoing investigation.

“The Paris Express” is not great. Rains’ transformation from meek bookkeeper to dangerous villain is not well developed so the implausibility factor is high. The very ending seems unresolved if not plain confusing. The inspector ruled Lom’s death accidental. But we are not sure if Rains is totally innocent. However, as mild and child-like the opening, it journeys to places you would not expect a routine life could go. Listening to and watching Rains’ performance makes it the worthwhile stopover.

1 comment:

  1. I love Claude Rains but I have not seen this movie. I will have to check it out. Thanks for submitting to the Classic Movie Marathon Link Party.

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