Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Titfield Thunderbolt

1952 - Dir: Charles Crighton

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th April, 2002
and on 28th December, 2013

Local direct action is the theme of this sometimes underrated Ealing picture. A group of villagers defy the faceless bureaucrats bent on closing down their local railway line. It was filmed only a few years before the Beeching revolution wiped out almost all such branch lines - in fact, the line on which filming took place, near the village of Limpley Stoke, a few miles from Bath did disappear as a result of British Rail's rationalisation programme. Douglas Slocombe's photography was evocative of the West Country of the time and used Technicolor for the first time for an Ealing comedy. Hugh Samson in Picturegoer reported during shooting: "The odd thing about this railway film is that not a single railway enthusiast is to be found in the whole crew. T.E.B. 'Tibby' Clarke, writer of the script, loathes trains. Producer Michael Truman can't get out of them quick enough. And director Crichton - well, you won't find him taking engine numbers at Paddington" - must've been hell for them but the result is great fun for us!
    The 'Thunderbolt' is a genuine veteran locomotive called 'Lion'. It was built for the Liverpool and Manchester railway in 1838, making it 115 years old when it was used in the film. It’s now on display in the Museum of Liverpool.
    The name Titfield was created by T.E.B. Clarke the from the adjacent villages of Titsey and Limpsfield in Surrey.
    Technical and historical note:
    Those of you with very long memories may recall that we’ve shown this film before - in April 2002 to be precise. Eleven years ago we were only able to get a very worn and scratched black and white copy. In 2013 we’re showing a sparkling new high definition digital restoration - the colours are back to their full Technicolor glory and the English countryside has never looked so green and pleasant

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