|Yves Montand and Jean-Louis Trintignant|
When a train traveling from Marseilles pulls into Paris, a young woman is found strangled to death in a sleeper compartment. Inspector Graziani (Yves Montand of The Wages of Fear) and his partner Jean-Lou Gabert (Claude Mann) investigate the murder and to their astonishment discover that someone else is reaching the witnesses, the other passengers in the murder car who disembarked in Paris, first, and shooting them! The witnesses include the actress Eliane Darres (Simone Signoret of Games), who has a younger lover, Eric (Jean-Louis Trintignant); Rene Cabourg (Michel Piccoli of Danger: Diabolik), who is resentful that women generally snub him, as did the victim; Daniel (Jacques Perrin), a young runaway who rides the train without a ticket; Bambi (Catherine Allegret), a young lady who takes him to her apartment for sex and sustenance; and others. The Sleeping Car Murder is suspenseful and has some good actors in it, but despite some intriguing developments, it's a bit of a let-down once you realize that the basic premise is pretty much lifted from Agatha Christie -- not Murder on the Orient Express, but "The Alphabet Murders," which was also filmed that same year. At least this has different plot developments and an unexpected final twist as well as some homoerotic elements (Eric pours through a muscle man magazine in front of an oblivious Eliane in an early scene; the identity of his male lover comes as quite a surprise.) The picture drags a bit after the final revelation and the film's score is lousy, but Sleeping Car is still an attention-holder. With a mysterious killer wandering around in a black raincoat killing people, the movie almost reminds one of an Italian giallo film, but the murders are neither gruesome nor graphic. Signoret, Trintignant, Piccoli, Mann and the others are all quite effective, but Montand looks pretty bored throughout. He was married to Signoret at the time, from 1951 until his death in 1984. Catherine Allegret is Signoret's daughter by her first husband.
Verdict: Interesting French thriller .. with reservations. **1/2.