The Journey (Rojo Atardecer) (1959)
Director: Anatole Litvak.
Starring: Deborah Kerr (Diana Ashmore), Yul Brynner (Major Surov), Jason Robards (Paul Kedes), Robert Morley (Hugh Deverill), E.G. Marshall (Harold Rhinelander), Anne Jackson (Margie Rhinelander), Ron Howard (Billy Rhinelander), Flip Mark (Flip Rhinelander), Kurt Kasznar (Csepege), David Kossoff (Simon Avron), Gérard Oury (Teklel Hafouli), Marie Daëms (Françoise Hafouli), Anouk Aimée (Eva), Barbara von Nady (Borbala), Maurice Sarfati (Jacques Fabbry).
Lady Ashmore is caught in Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution and wants to get out of Hungary accompanied by a Hungarian dissenter wanted by the police
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"The action of this story takes place between Budapest, the capital of Hungary, and the Austro-Hungarian border, where the film was actually photographed. The time is November 1956, during the tragic days of the Hungarian uprising."
A man named Hugh Deverill complains to the airline that he has been at the airport for two days now. He tries to go out onto the tarmac, but a Russian guard pushes him back.
The male passengers are in the bathroom. One man says it could be a delay of five weeks or five months. Harold Rhinelander says he has to get back home. He has two kids at home. On the radio the news is bleak for Hungary. People beg for help from the outside world, because they can't hold on much longer against the might of the Soviet war machine. Hugh says he always thought of the Hungarians as a bunch of Gypsy fiddlers, but here they are fighting for their independence by facing the Soviet army.
More travelers arrive at the Budapest airport. Two of the passengers are Lady Diana Ashmore and the priest Paul Kedes (using the name Henry Fleming). They learn that they will have to take a bus going to Vienna. There is nothing else they can do for them. The distance is 250 km.
The passengers board the bus. Journalist Hugh Deverill tells his fellow passengers that they should make it to Vienna in time for a late lunch. The priest has been shot in the arm and he is weak and sweating. Later Hugh speaks to Lady Ashmore, who knows her and her husband Cecil. He asks why didn't Cecil come with her? She says they are separated.
The bus comes to a halt as they reach a Russian checkpoint. Two guards come aboard the bus and they do a headcount. The priest faints and everybody rushes to him. Lady Ashmore pushes her way up to the front of the line, so to speak, and starts tending to Fleming. Hugh now tells everyone that Lady Ashmore will take care of Fleming, so everyone goes back to their seats. Fleming tells Lady Ashmore that when the Russians came aboard he suddenly couldn't remember his false name. She tells him his name and says that he was born in Vienna on May 24, 1914. And he is a naturalized English citizen since 1940.
A tree is pushed onto the road to make the bus stop. This time it's the Hungarian freedom fighters. They check the passports of the people on the bus and then let the bus go through. The bus reaches a town where there is another Russian checkpoint. The Russian guard points in the direction of the center of the town and tells the bus driver to go. In the town center, the bus is stopped once again. Nearby, some captured Hungarian rebels standing in a Russian truck start singing. The towns people join in on the singing. The truck takes off.
Russian Major Surov arrives on his horse. The people are told to get off the bus. They will each be questioned. The Major tells the people that their travel pass is no longer valid. All travelers have to have a special exit visa from General Headquarters. Several people object to this "bureaucratic red tape" but the Major says they will be detained. They can stay in the local hotel. It's that or be taken back to Budapest. The people decide to stay.
Lt. Tulpin shows them the way over to the hotel. The inn keeper assigns everyone to a room. Hugh tells Lady Ashmore that there's something peculiar about that Fleming character. He goes on to say that if there is something wrong, they should know about it because it will impact all of the 14 other people on the bus.
Dinner is served. One of the men ask Lady Ashmore to help Fleming because he is very unwell, but won't even lay down. Lady Ashmore goes in to see Fleming. He says they should have taken separates means of getting to Vienna. She says she's in charge now and she will get him across that border and into Austria. She leans over and kisses him on the mouth. She asks him to be patient. It's been five years since they last saw each other.
The Major and two other Russians come to have dinner at the hotel. The Major notices that some one is missing. Lady Ashmore comes in apologizing for being late. Surov says 13 is an unlucky number. He asks who is missing? Lady Ashmore says Mr. Fleming is not feeling very well. Surov mentions that maybe they should have a doctor come see Fleming. The conversation is interrupted by a lot of automatic weapons fire. A young man named Fabbry gets up from the table to go outside. Surov demands that he sit back down. Fabbry sits down.
Surov now says he wants the visitors to start talking and discussing things with him. He says that Hugh is much too diplomatic for his own good. Since Surov wants them to talk, Lady Ashmore says: "They hate you." Surov says: "Thank you." Just then some bullets break some windows of the dining room. Surov goes outside to see what is happening. There is a fire fight between two freedom fighters on a roof and the Russian guards in the street. The two guerillas are killed.
Fleming starts talking in his sleep. The other men get up to listen to him. Lady Ashmore hears him scream and comes running. As she approaches the men's room she hears one of the men say that this Fleming is really Hungarian. He took part in the revolt, was wounded and is now trying to escape. He says he should report this to Surov, but Hugh tells him not to do that. The guys hears a noise and Hugh goes to see what it is. He goes down into the kitchen and turns on the light. A little later Lady Ashmore comes in saying that she heard a scream. Hugh says yes, it was Mr. Fleming. He adds that he thinks Lady Ashmore should tell him what's going on.
Lady Ashmore says the man is Paul Kedes. She met him in the summer some time ago in Britain where Paul was studying biology. And it was she who decided to stop seeing him. The next day she went with Cecil to Nassau. When she came back Paul had returned to Hungary. In December of 1952 they arrested Paul on some ridiculous accusation of spying. He was in prison until ten days ago when he was freed by a group of his students. He was wounded in a battle on the streets. She says he spent five years in prison and believes herself to be the cause of this. And now she is trying to make up for her failure.
A group of the bus passengers asks to speak with Lady Ashmore. They want her to tell them if Fleming is a Hungarian or not? She says he is a Hungarian. One of the men says he will go tell Surov of this but Harold Rhinelander opposes the idea of turning Fleming over to the Russians. Russian soldiers come into the room and chase the foreigners out of it. Surov comes and says that everyone has to fill out a questionnaire so that they may receive their exit visas. Who is missing? Fleming. Well, Fleming has to personally fill out the questionnaire.
Lady Ashmore says that she will fill out Fleming's questionnaire. Surov gives her Fleming's passport to help her fill in the questionnaire. Then he asks her a lot of questions about her warm relationship with this Fleming character. Lady Ashmore is as cool as a cucumber and gives as good as she gets. They are interrupted by the sounds of the mourners in the funeral for one of the freedom fighters killed last night. Surov still doesn't understand why the Hungarians hate the Russians. He says the Russians are here to help them and to defend them. Lady Ashmore asks: "To protect them from whom?"
Surov now asks the asthma suffering Mr. Avron to please come with him. He wants to talk to Avron. In a separate room Avron tells Surov that he knows nothing of this Fleming. Surov thinks that's very strange so now Avron says: "I can't tell you." Of course, Avron's last statement makes Surov very suspicious that the group is hiding something they know about this Fleming. He goes to Fleming's room.
Fleming puts a pistol underneath his pillow just in case. Surov comes in and says he wants to talk to Fleming alone. Lady Ashmore says she is going, but will be back in a moment. Surov doesn't get anything out of Fleming, so he tells him that he doesn't know who Fleming is, but he's got plenty of time to find out. Lady Ashmore comes back and is very impatient for Surov to leave. He leaves.
Lady Ashmore looks for the pistol under the pillow, but doesn't find it. They both figure the Major took the pistol. And now they feel that they must get out of here. But who can they trust to help them? Lady Ashmore goes to the inn keeper and he tells her to go to the market where his friend sells fish. Ask for a certain type of Hungarian fish -- which is the password phrase. So Lady Ashmore goes to the market.
She finds the friend and arranges a time and place to meet to take them across the lake. She is interrupted by a Russian soldier who asks for her passport. Lady Ashmore says that Major Surov has it. So the soldiers call the Major and the Major comes out and picks Lady Ashmore up in his jeep. He scolds her for being in the market. Once again, he runs into a woman (actually, a freedom fighter) who always look at Surov with such hate that it unnerves the Major somewhat. He turns his jeep around to go a different way.
He takes hLady Ashmore to a secluded restaurant. He says he has enough information already to string up this Fleming, but he hasn't done it. And why? He acts like he doesn't understand his reluctance either.
Lady Ashmore is back in the hotel room with Fleming. The inn keeper comes to tell them that he will find out if the escape is a go tonight or not.
At dinner the Major is in a very good mood. He sings drinking songs while his female "guests" drink vodka. Later almost everybody dances, except for Lady Ashmore. She is waiting for a chance to get away from Major Surov. He comes over and asks to dance with her. She doesn't want to, but he insists. She has to get a bit nasty with him to get away. She runs to get her stuff. She comes out and there is Major Surov. He talks as if he knows she's leaving and he's letting her leave.
Fleming is already in the boat when Lady Ashmore finally arrives. The Major comes out on horseback looking for the escapees. He finds them. He tells them to come out. When they don't, machine guns are fired in their direction. Fleming says they are coming out. They do come out and are taken away by the Russian soldiers. Now all the bus passengers are forced back to their rooms.
Surov grabs the passports and tells a guard to return them to the bus passengers. He then dictates a letter to a typist.
He then goes to see Lady Ashmore. She says she must explain some things to him. He doesn't want to listen. She says she and Fleming are going to marry. She begs Surov to let Fleming go.
Surov gets a telephone call. He says she will be leaving tomorrow. And now it's all out of his hands. He will receive orders and he will obey them.
The group is to be taken back to Budapest leaving at 9 tomorrow morning.
Mrs. Rhinelander comes to say that all this is Lady Ashmore's fault. And one reason they have been here so long is that the Major has a yearning for Lady Ashmore. She tells Lady Ashmore directly that if the Major wants something, the Lady is to give it to him or someone is going to get hurt. Then she apologizes to Lady Ashmore. The woman is afraid of losing the baby she soon will be giving birth to.
The freedom fighters try to assassinate the Major, but they wound his horse instead of killing him.
Lady Ashmore is alone at the table. Now she wants to go see the Major. A doctor works on the Major's horse trying to save it. The Major takes a walk around the area. He goes into the enlisted man's quarters and gets something to eat and drink. Surov sings along with the accordionist. The doctor comes in to say his horse will not make it. He gives his pistol to a sergeant and tells him to put the horse out of its misery. Lady Ashmore comes into the quarters.
He asks her the reason for her visit? No answer from her. He introduces her to the sergeants. Now two gun shots are heard finishing off the horse. The men leave the room out of respect for the Major's grief over his horse. He goes on a rant in which he admits that all the time it was Lady Ashmore that he wanted. He says he wanted to hold her over for the entire winter. Lady Ashmore says: "The others told me to come." At first, Surov doesn't understand, but when he does, he starts laughing loudly.
Then the Major changes his course of argument. He says all along she has wanted him and she was just lying to him, as she was lying to herself. He kisses her and she responds, but then she says: "Le me go, please." He lets her leave.
The next morning everyone gets on board the bus. Some of the passengers say they are not going back the way they came. A German says that Austria is over there a short ways away. They all get off the bus and head over to cross the bridge into Austria. From a nearby jeep, Fleming is let go and he runs to Lady Ashmore. They embrace. Surov tells the couple that they better hurry. She thanks the Major, but he says: "I had to do it or I would never be able to sleep again." He says they have to hurry because a regular patrol will be along soon. The couple crosses over the bridge.
Now all the bus passengers are in Austria. Surov finishes his cigarette and gets into his jeep. Three shots from the freedom fighters ends the Major's life. He slumps over on the passenger front side. One of the freedom fighters was the woman who really hated Surov.
Not much history in this film. It's a love story set during the time of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It deals mostly with the trapped bus passengers trying to get out of Hungary and into Austria and the relationship between Lady Ashmore and a fellow with the false name of Fleming. As would be expected, Deobrah Kerr (as Lady Ashmore) and Yul Bryner (as Major Surov) do an excellent job. There are some well-known character actors in the film too, such as Robert Morley and E.G. Marshall.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
Return To Main Page
Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)