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  • Gareth Crook

Caught on a Train (1980)

An old favourite, but one I’ve not seen in years. Peter (Michael Kitchen) is Caught on a train in Stephen Poliakoff’s comedic drama. Travelling across Europe, he finds himself in a carriage with the irritating Frau Messner (Peggy Ashcroft), the busy-body Preston (Michael Sheard), the fairly indifferent Kellner and the lovely Lorraine (Wendy Raebeck). It’s going to be a long journey. Not helped at all by a group of excitable young Germans and a load of football fans. It’s the Frau Messner show though, Ashcroft is magnificent, she grates on Peter from the off, wanting his seat, not letting him smoke, stifling his attempts to chat up Lorraine. It’s a beautiful piece of slow searing tension, scored with some lovely jazz interludes. I have to say intercontinental train travel in the late 70s looks like hell, but it does provide a wonderful setting for this. Peter has nowhere to escape. The corridor, the dining car, Frau Messner always seems to be there. Her aristocratic rudeness needling at Peter’s British reserve. A stop off in Frankfurt sees the unlikely pairing head off to the Opera for cake, it’s a nice respite from the train and an opportunity for Peter to get to know Messner better, including her Nazi affiliations and wartime stories. Back on the train, he’s spurned by Lorraine, hassled in the sleeping car and arrested by German police for having muddy trousers! “This journey is turning into an assault course”. The arrest is quite terrifying as he’s marched off the train in the snow, half dressed, looking for an unlikely ally. We know where Peter’s headed, but it’s really not important. The journey really is more enjoyable than the destination and for 80 near perfect minutes I’m transported effortlessly.



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