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Von Ryan's Express

It isn't The Great Escape, but Von Ryan's Express is still pretty damn good. Based on the best-seller by David Westheimer and directed by Mark Robson, Frank Sinatra stars in this 1965 thriller as U.S. Army Col. Joseph Ryan, who is shot down over Italy in 1944. Winding up in an Italian POW camp, Ryan soon discovers that he is the most senior officer, outranking British Army Maj. Eric Fincham (Trevor Howard). Ryan and Fincham immediately butt heads over how the camp should be run, but after Italy falls to the Allies, the POWs find themselves on the run, caught between Nazi soldiers who intend to round them up and the Allied forces that are still far away to the south. Corralled into a German transport train, Ryan and Fincham soon dispatch their Nazi captors — but their only option is to continue the train's journey towards Germany, as changing course will alert the High Command that something's afoot. Fans of World War II films will want to add Von Ryan's Express to their DVD collections — while it doesn't have the gravitas of A Bridge Too Far or subversive fun of The Dirty Dozen, it plays well as a potboiler chase-film, full of nonstop twists and turns and as effortlessly enjoyable as an Alistair MacLean novel. Sinatra acquits himself well, and even though his film career rarely ventured into the action/adventure genre, his Col. Ryan is an intimidating American officer with that unmistakable, no-nonsense New Jersey accent. Howard, as his English counterpart Fincham, is likewise appealing, barking orders at his troops and tussling with Ryan at every opportunity. The entire supporting cast is great fun as well, and while Sinatra doesn't really get an on-screen love interest this time around, the sumptuous Raffaella Carrà, as an Italian mistress caught aboard the train, demonstrates that nothing can get a man's attention quite like a single pair of nylon stockings. Fox's DVD release of Von Ryan's Express features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in the original mono or a new Dolby 2.0 Surround mix. Theatrical trailer for Von Ryan's Express (which is in remarkably good condition), and trailers for other Fox war films. Keep-case.
—JJB



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