VSL// A witty British spy film you haven’t seen

Maybe it’s still too soon for Nazis comedies, but it wasn’t in 1940, the year Night Train to Munich (on DVD 6/29), a witty British spy flick recently resuscitated by the Criterion Collection, was released.

On the eve of World War II, a Czechoslovakian scientist and his daughter are kidnapped in England by undercover Nazis. Not to be outdone, the British send their own agent into Germany to save them. Here’s a film full of surprises, suspense and deception, but it’s more than a thriller—it’s also a romantic comedy. The roguish Rex Harrison, as the British agent assigned to the Bomachs’ rescue, played with a gleeful glint in his eye, and a duo of doughy English gentlemen who get mixed up in the plot are masters of British understatement. These performances, the clever writing of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat and the impeccable direction by Carol Reed somehow managed to make a delightful, lighthearted film about and amid the most devastating war that ever was.

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