Casablanca Express (1989)

Pop quiz hotshot. You have a runaway train pointed at your platoon. What do you do? What do you do? Turns out to be a real easy question to answer for a Johnny Yank who’s on the the other train with his platoon. You take your bazooka and blow the piss out of it and the dirty no-good Kraut driving it! Give my regards to Uncle Adolph, you jackbooted, bratwurst sucking, Aryan dog turd!

Truth be told though, in Casablanca Express, our guys really didn’t kick as much Axis tail as I would have liked, but that was because super duper British secret agent Alan Cooper was doing a lot of it. And really, if it isn’t red-blooded Americans shooting, stabbing, and cussing out Nazis, there’s no one I would rather see do it than a British guy played by Connery. Jason Connery.

Jason of course is Sean Connery’s son and while it would be easy to say that he doesn’t quite measure up to his legendary old man, it really wouldn’t be fair. Sure, pops is an icon for his repeatedly expert portrayal of a single one-dimensional role, but Jason doesn’t really bring to mind the elder Connery in this movie so much as a couple of other acting legends. Obviously, I’m talking about his use of Don Johnson’s Miami Vice wardrobe and a physical appearance that is clearly modeled after Olympic gymnast and Rad star, Bart Connor. It’s a good look for a secret agent since the Germans probably aren’t looking for a wimpy-looking blonde dressed in a light colored sport coat and open collared maroon dress shirt in 1942.

Jason is smack dab in the middle of the most important mission the war had known up until that date! Some guy named Winston Churchill has to get to a meeting or afternoon tea or whatever on the other side of Africa and the French, American, and British commanders have to figure out the safest way to do it. It’s decided that a train ride would be best because that’s not what the Germans are expecting, so Winnie (Jason’s girlfriend) and Captain Franchetti (played by Anthony Quinn’s son) board this train while Jason stays behind.

If you think it makes little sense that Jason’s girlfriend would be on the train while Jason stayed behind, you’ve don’t know anything about covert ops. See, Jason stayed behind, asking questions of the local rail yard workers that revealed the whole thing was a set up! And if you think it makes little sense that Jason didn’t ask these questions before Churchill got on the train and left, well then, you’re just a party pooper!

Thankfully, the Germans don’t waste a lot of time taking over the train. This leads to scenes of Franchetti fighting a Nazi on top of the moving train, nuns, kids, and priests getting shot, and Allied soldiers getting thrown off the train when the Germans slam on the brakes while our boys are on top of it! You even get a scene of a soldier falling between train cars and under the train! That’ll leave a mark!

After they take over the train and capture Churchill, the Germans display some of that top notch military strategy that also saw their proposed 1000 year Reich fall about 10 centuries short. Instead of killing Churchill or spiriting him away back to Berlin under the cover of night and with the element of surprise on their side, they notify the allies that they’ve taken over the train and are going to be waiting for one of their planes to come and pick Churchill up to fly him to Berlin. They’re also going to mine the train to foil any rescue attempt.

It’s the perfect, most diabolical plan ever! Except for the part where they told us they’d be sitting ducks for one of those suicide missions the best in the business were undertaking on a weekly basis back in WWII.

And you better believe that Jason is the best in the business! In fact, his commander, Donald Pleasence says so, announcing that Jason is their expert in “impossible operations!” And Jason was jumping in there saying he had a plan! And it involved only one man! Himself! I thought, that plan is so impossibly crazy, that it has no choice but to work flawlessly! And I hadn’t even heard it yet! And then Jason mentioned how he would need some special equipment!

Special equipment? I thought furiously, imagining all the gadgets and gear he would be no doubt be using in this one man rescue mission! Some sort of stealth and rocket powered dune buggy was a gimme though a case could be made for a personal hang glider equipped with night vision, grenade launcher and painted up to look like a angry phoenix. Snazzy black battle armor, with appropriate tac accessories (helmet, goggles, radio, flash bombs, face paint, big ass knife, etc.) would also be a pretty safe bet.

I assumed a duffel bag armory like the Delta Force Commando favored would also be standard issue and would almost certainly contain a gross of machine guns, more knives, grenades, slingshot, and infinite supply of ammo along with similar amount of pithy remarks to be used when dispatching enemy combatants. This was THE can’t miss part of the movie. So, you know what his special equipment turned out to be? A little cross bow and a pair of wire cutters. (In Jason’s defense, he did make good use of his little bow and arrow set and snipped quite a few wires with his cutters.)

I forgot all about the equipment-impaired nature of Jason’s plan when he had a showdown with the evil German in charge of the operation. They rolled around in the sand for awhile until Jason was subdued and then it got really good! The German said that he knew the British preferred tea and then threw hot coffee in Jason’s face! Jason got the last laugh however when he delivered the line of the movie (and possibly of all WWII movies): “Up Hitler’s ass!” (Runner up was when he said to the same villain, “is it true Adolph Hitler fucks your whore of a mother?”)

Director Sergio Martino delivers yet again,  his twenty-first movie of the 1980s comfortably taking its place among his other entertaining exploitation efforts such as American Rickshaw, The Great Alligator, and The Opponent. The film easily checks off the grocery list of items we need in our trashy war movies: exploding train, swearing, lots of people getting shot, harebrained rescue mission, and a touching death scene where a priest is absolved of his sins by a Muslim! Glenn Ford’s apparently reanimated corpse was even in this movie! Thank you for your service, Casablanca Express!

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