21 April 2017 | boblipton
Done Right For the First Time
Well-to-do people, all with their own secrets get aboard THE ROME EXPRESS, from a scenario by Sidney Gilliat.
One of the issues of looking at a movie that is clearly the precursor to another, well regarded movie, is that it invites invidious comparisons. It's a phenomenon I call "the end of history" and it reflects our bias that everyone and everything that happened before us is just leading up to our own magnificence, while everything after us will be a severe let-down. This movie was not made as a trial run for Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES, despite Gilliat, producer Michael Balcon and the presence of several plot elements -- including a couple who are cheating on their spouses -- that were later used in the more famous movie. If anything, the later movie was probably conceived as a remake.
Looking at this movie on its own merits, we can recognize it as a sparkling cast -- including Finlay Currie as an American, Cedric Hardwicke, Esther Ralson, Hugh Williams and the always brilliant Conrad Veidt as a mysterious threat. It is a skillful blending of comedy and thrills by director Walter Forde, who would return to the theme with 1941's THE MAIL TRAIN. Yes, Hitchcock and others would do it better; they had the model in this movie -- which is vastly entertaining on its own.