The Man Who Watched Trains Go By – who remembers this one ?

I don’t know why but I quite often think of this film title – particularly when crossing a rail line or even on a train journey.   Funny because I have never seen the film – and it is NOT widely known these days.

Maybe it is just the that title intrigues me. Who knows.

This is a rarity, an obscure colour film starring Claude Rains late in his career – he was 63 when it was made.           He plays a quiet and respectable Chief Clerk of a Dutch manufacturing firm which is owned by Herbert Lom and his aged father.     Unknown to everyone, Lom has been obsessed for some time by a scheming and criminal Parisian prostitute  played  by Marta Toren.     He has looted the company of all of its cash and left it a bankrupt shell  prior to running off to Paris to a new life with his beloved.

This is discovered at the last minute by Rains, who has sunk his entire family’s savings in the company, and hence lost everything.   Rains snaps and turns on Lom, pushing him into a canal in a rage, where Lom drowns. Rains takes Lom’s suitcase containing all the company’s remaining cash and runs off to Paris, which he has always wanted to visit. He has been a train-spotter all his life, and for years has been noting the passage of the Paris Express.    Now at last he is on it.

Marius Goring is a Dutch policeman who suspects Lom, and now trails Rains. When he arrives in Paris,   Rains wants to find Marta Toren and he asks directions of a young prostitute in the street  played by the 20 year-old Anouk Aimée.      Eventually, Rains meets up with Toren, who at first laughs at him as a ridiculous old man and throws him out. Her attitude towards him changes however when she realizes he has Lom’s money.   Things go from bad to worse  as Rains sinks deeper and deeper into delusion and intrigue. 

The film is only mildly interesting, but the performance of Claude Rains is masterful, and truly makes something out of nothing.

Admirers of Claude Rains will like watching this.

Rains served in World War One  in the London Scottish Regiment with  fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman  and Herbert Marshall.   He was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life. However, the war did aid his social advancement and, by its end, he had risen to the rank of Captain.


From his glitteringly successful film career I can think back to a colour version of The Pahntom of The Opera 1943 – before I could remember BUT sometimes seen on TV.

Very Good Version too.

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