Classic Film Guide

Berlin Express (1948)

An almost documentary (as it's narrated by an uncredited voice) style thriller set in post World War II Germany with a terrific cast, directed by Jacques Tourneur. Frankfort and Berlin were devastated by Allied bombing raids towards the end of the war and the country is now divided into four disparate sections controlled by United States, Russian, French, and British military forces. An important German diplomat, who had been campaigning against his own country's aggression even before it started the war, is traveling by train to a post war peace conference in hopes of persuading the occupying countries to work with his countrymen to rebuild (e.g. alliances, his country, etc.). U.S. military personnel are charged with the responsibility of transporting this diplomat, Dr. Bernhardt, safely to the conference and their precautions save the real Dr. Bernhardt (Paul Lukas) from being killed by a grenade bomb that was planted in his cabin. However, when an old friend of Bernhardt's (Reinhold Schünzel) is blackmailed into identifying the Doctor at a railway station, Bernhardt disappears. The Doctor's French secretary, Lucienne (Merle Oberon), who'd been traveling "with" him, then persuades the international contingent of other passengers, who'd also been on the train and can identify him by sight, to assist her in finding the real Doctor (a bit too conveniently) in war ravaged Berlin. Robert Ryan is the American, Robert Coote the Englishman, Roman Toporow the Russian, Charles Korvin a Frenchman, and Peter von Zerneck another German ... but all is not as it seems (regardless of the stated nationalities and/or uniforms). There is plenty of (dated) political dialogue in this Curt Siodmak story that was adapted by Harold Medford.

Though I've read reviews which compare this film to The Third Man (1949), for its depiction of the diverse politics (of the occupying countries), a more apt comparison (at least visually) would be to Germania Anno Zero (1948) or The Search (1948).

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