A man has been killed on a train bound for Berlin. But it turns out that the man dead was not who he says he was, and his enemies are still out there and looking for revenge.
Set and filmed in post-World War II Germany, Berlin Express (1948) is both a spectacular example of film noir and trümmerfilm — a cycle of European movies produced in the years following the war that focus on the rubble, both physical and mental. Trümmerfilms are largely German and Italian, but Berlin Express was the first Hollywood production filmed in the bombed out cities Frankfurt and Berlin. As director Jacques Tourneur told Eddie Muller, it wasn’t easy navigating the cities, but it saved them $65 million on sets.
Narrated by Paul Stewart and starring Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan, Paul Lukas, Charles Korvin, and Roman Toporow, Berlin Express is a swift moving story through twisty terrain. Director Tourneur once again shows his adeptness in the noir milue while Lucien Ballard’s cinematography is deliciously draped in shadow. The movie’s end message is heartfelt, while also being chillingly prophetic. High marks all around. Berlin Express is currently available to stream on the Watch TCM app until Jan. 6.