Ossus Library Index Young Indy Index

THE PHANTOM TRAIN OF DOOM

Directed by Peter Macdonald (1999, Lucasfilm)
Starring Sean Patrick Flannery and Ronny Coutteure (guest cast)

Lost in Africa, Indy and Remmy join a group of elderly commandos to destroy a German train-mounted gun, and kidnap a German Colonel.

View count: Twice

 

 

4 stars

August 31st, 2003 on Video  
   

It has been so long since I watched the best of these chronicles- too long, and this is certainly one of the best of them.

There is not much to add to what I said below, which was only the first time I had seen this particular episode. Even the second time around, I was amazed at how well the various characters interacted, and how the "old men" were able to teach Indy many things.

So many of Indy's adventures in World War I end up in failure, that it was nice to see how he and his gang succeeded in destroying the train. Of course, in the second hour, he failed to bring the German Colonel back to the British. All the same, Indy is being trained by the best, by the people who have so much experience.

Once again, the music played a large part in making this episode so much fun to watch. It had a true Western feel to it (even though it was taking place in the middle of South Africa).

The scenery was also amazing. The ocean backdrop was a terrific matte painting (even though I could tell it was so), and the giant craters made by the train-mounted cannon were awesome. The African savannah was also beautiful, with all the animals, trees and desert.

There were plenty of cheesy bits, both in the acting, dialog and the direction, but there were also many points that were truly humorous, like consistently missing the trains, or ordering the lions to leave, or Remmy... always Remmy -I love watching him battle against the so-called common sense that Indy has. Indy is a leader, but he doesn't really have all the information before he decides to lead somewhere.

 

 

4 stars

March 16th, 2000 on Video  
   

I was dreading this one, but it was apparent from the first few minutes that I was completely wrong.  It was great.  It contained all the humour and adventure of a true Indiana Jones adventure.  This might someday usurp my favourite Young Indy: The Mystery of the Blues.

The story is simple.  Indy and Remmy are sent to their next command, but they take the wrong train.  Then, trying to get back, they take the wrong train again, and end up even deeper into Africa.  The train breaks down, and they walk for a couple of days before wandering into a British camp of elderly soldiers. 

In a hilarious scene, a couple of the soldiers are trying to put together an elite team, but they need an expert on trains, who can also speak German.  Of course, Indy fits the bill perfectly!  But he doesn't know it.  He thinks he is going to see the General, to get back to the Belgian lines. 

There is another great scene, where the elite team that is going to try and destroy the train-mounted gun is introduced.  It is done in hero's style, while Indy stares, mouth agape, when he discovers that he has become part of the team. 

I love episodes where Indy gets to learn a lot.  And this one is full of them.  He lets the detonator caps get wet, so they don't work when they are set.  He also learns that these old men have lots of life and experience left in them.  They are great soldiers, and they can still give a lot in terms of lessons. 

The search for the train is a success, thanks to an errand where Indy goes in search of "toilet paper", which actually is ordinary paper, where they find a requisition for a very long length of telegraph cable.  They dig up the cable, and follow it to a fake cliff, where the train is hiding. 

It was nice to see the other side, where Remmy was waiting, during the scenes where the gun was fired.  Even if it was only a short scene, it really drives home why Indy's mission is so vital.

The music also stood out from the rest of the episodes that we've seen.  It was fun, and energetic, and gave a sense of the dramatic, whenever something was going to happen.  I'd like to see more of that.

Needless to say, the mission is a success, but not in the way they planned it.  They set up the timers and the explosives on the train, but the train moves out on another mission before they can blow it up.  The timers fail, so they have to rewire the explosives on the run.  Of course, they are discovered.  And when the explosives go off, the gun isn't destroyed.  So they commandeer the train, and plan to take it back behind British lines.  Unfortunately, they run into more opposition.  They escape under the cover of the engine's steam, and a sharp-shooter on the team shoots at one pack of dynamite from a long distance, setting it off, destroying the train.  Indy gains a new respect for his colleagues.

Once they return, they are hailed as heroes.  Remmy doesn't like the way it has gone to Indy's head, and the spend the rest of the episode bickering, which is so funny.  Also, Remmy's constant use of the phrase "I hate it when that happens" is so hilarious, because he uses it so seriously.

The elderly group is sent on a mission to kidnap a German Colonel now, and they want Indy to tag along.  So they promise to get him back to his regiment, and take him on their mission, leaving him in the dark.  Remmy gets to dress in a dress for the first time, as they go in disguise.  But they are found out almost immediately after crossing German lines.  They capture a messenger, a woman whom Indy tries to get to know better.  Remmy is so bitter that it is really funny. 

But they are captured, and brought to the camp where the Colonel is stationed.  They manage to escape, in typical British deadpan, and kidnap the Colonel, but then all hell breaks loose.  The team steals a car, but Indy and Remmy aren't with them.  And the Colonel is with Indy.  They end up flying in a balloon, in the most incompetent kidnapping in history.  The Colonel is furious.  If he was to be kidnapped, he would much prefer professionals, not these bumblers! 

But once again Indy gets to learn a lot from his captive.  He learns how to prepare for travels in Africa, to march a prisoner, and a little discipline, as well.  No wonder he makes Captain later in the war. 

In the end, however, he has to choose between letting his captive go, and getting captured himself.  He weighs his options well, and the Colonel respects that, letting him and Remmy go on their way.

 

  Guest Cast: Paul Freeman as Frederick Selous
Julian Firth as Richard Meinertzhagen
Tom Bell as Colonel Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck
Norman Rodway as Jan Christian Smuts
 
   

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