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Trains have often served as effective cinematic backdrops, especially in suspense movies. Glenn Ford, Van Heflin and director Delmer Daves managed to squeeze considerable tension merely out of waiting for a train in the western thriller 3:10 to Yuma (1957). But four years earlier, Ford was aboard one speeding to doom in Terror on a Train (1953), a compact (72 minutes) high-tension melodrama. A bomb has been placed aboard a freight train, threatening the lives of many people and putting a Naval shipyard in jeopardy. Ford plays a demolitions expert called in to disarm the bomb in a desperate race against the clock.
For American viewers, Ford is likely to be the only recognizable name, although several cast members may be familiar. The British-set film (called Time Bomb for its U.K. release) features French actress Anne Vernon, who was in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Roberto Rossellini's General della Rovere (1959). Third-billed Maurice Denham began his film career in 1938 and worked for nearly 60 years in such films as Carol Reed's Our Man in Havana (1959) with Alec Guinness, The Nanny (1965) with Bette Davis, and the international productions Operation Crossbow (1965) and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965). He was honored as an Officer of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 1992.
Terror on a Train was the second movie Glenn Ford made with Ted Tetzlaff. Their first project was the mountain-climbing adventure The White Tower (1950). Although he directed more than a dozen films between 1941 and 1959, including the cult thriller The Window (1949), Tetzlaff's major career was as a cinematographer, responsible for more than 100 pictures over two decades beginning in 1926. After initial work as a lab assistant, he photographed several of Frank Capra's earliest films at Columbia, then moved on to Paramount, where he was behind the camera on a number of top-drawer productions, including My Man Godfrey (1936), Remember the Night (1940), and the second Hope-Crosby-Lamour teaming, Road to Zanzibar (1941). He was Oscar-nominated for The Talk of the Town (1942) and worked with Alfred Hitchcock on Notorious (1946), his final film as a cinematographer.
One of the cinematographers on Terror on a Train was the legendary Freddie Young, whose career spanned from 1928 to 1985. Winner of numerous awards and honors for his work, Young is probably most closely associated with director David Lean, with whom he worked on Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Ryan's Daughter (1970). All three won him Academy Awards and top honors from the British Society of Cinematographers.
The year of Terror on a Train's release was an especially good one for Ford. He starred in four other movies in 1953, including one of his best, Fritz Lang's noir thriller The Big Heat. He quickly became one of the most popular actors of the 1950s and early 60s, with an ability to play drama, action and comedy with equal skill.
Director: Ted Tetzlaff
Producer: Richard Goldstone
Screenplay: Kem Bennett
Cinematography: Tom Howard, Freddie Young
Editing: Frank Clarke, Robert Watts
Original Music: John Addison, Ralph Erwin
Cast: Glenn Ford (Peter Lyncort), Anne Vernon (Janine Lyncort), Maurice Denham (Jim Warilow), Harcourt Williams (Vicar).
BW-73m. Closed captioning.
by Rob Nixon