HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
American Fiction
Poor Things
Thunderclap
Zeiram
Legend of the Bat
Party Line
Night Fright
Pacha, Le
Kimi
Assemble Insert
Venus Tear Diamond, The
Promare
Beauty's Evil Roses, The
Free Guy
Huck and Tom's Mississippi Adventure
Rejuvenator, The
Who Fears the Devil?
Guignolo, Le
Batman, The
Land of Many Perfumes
Cat vs. Rat
Tom & Jerry: The Movie
Naked Violence
Joyeuses Pacques
Strangeness, The
How I Became a Superhero
Golden Nun
Incident at Phantom Hill
Winterhawk
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
Maigret Sets a Trap
B.N.A.
Hell's Wind Staff, The
Topo Gigio and the Missile War
Battant, Le
Penguin Highway
Cazadore de Demonios
Snatchers
Imperial Swordsman
Foxtrap
   
 
Newest Articles
3 From Arrow Player: Sweet Sugar, Girls Nite Out and Manhattan Baby
Little Cat Feat: Stephen King's Cat's Eye on 4K UHD
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
   
 
  Titfield Thunderbolt, The England, My England
Year: 1952
Director: Charles Crichton
Stars: Stanley Holloway, George Relph, John Gregson, Naunton Wayne, Hugh Griffith, Sid James, Godfrey Tearle, Edie Martin , Jack MacGowran, Reginald Beckwith
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Titfield Thunderbolt was the first Ealing comedy to be made in colour, but despite this technical progress, it also marked the end of the studio's classic period (maybe I should say the beginning of the end as The Ladykillers appeared in 1955). It did reasonably well on its first release but has aged less well than other Ealing comedies. This is partly a matter of changing tastes (the black comedy of The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets still has great appeal today) but also due to the fact that The Titfield Thunderbolt is almost too cosy, too idealised.

Earlier Ealing comedies had satirised aspects of Englishness in quite a critical, forensic way (capital and labour in The Man in the White Suit, diplomatic manoeuvres in Passport to Pimlico), or been based on a fantasy we can all identify with, such as robbing the Bank of England (The Lavender Hill Mob), or getting our hands on an unlimited supply of free drink (Whisky Galore!).

The Titfield Thunderbolt, on the other hand, is about a group of people who want to run a railway in order to avoid moving with the times. In the immediate post-war years there was a drive, reflected in cinema, that a new world would arise from the ashes of the old. In Passport to Pimlico, for example, Stanley Holloway's Pemberton wants to create a leisure park on a bomb site to give children a safe place for healthy play in post-war London. Here, Holloway's Mr Valentine bankrolls the railway, giving the old landed gentry (John Gregson's Squire) and the Church (George Relph's Vicar), the opportunity to keep things as they are.

The opening scenes, showing Titfied coming to life as the villagers make their way to the morning train, show an England which didn't really exist even when the film was made: cottages with neat gardens, no motor vehicles at all, just the sound of birdsong and the train chuffing its way through lush, open countryside (Douglas Slocombe's colour photography is beautiful throughout the film).

Progress, however, is on the way. State-owned British Railways has decided to close the Titfield line and replace it with a privately-owned bus company (apparently without prior consultation). A group led by the Squire and Vicar persuade Mr Valentine (a wealthy alcoholic who seems to have been propping up the bar of the local pub “for forty years” without suffering liver failure) to fund the local effort to keep the line open, on the basis that the company can open a bar on the train outside pub opening hours. The Ministry of Transport holds a public meeting which is briefly interrupted by a union man, Coggett, (Reginald Beckwith) whose rambling protest against “the bosses” and “exploitation” serves as a prototype for Peter Sellers' Fred Kite in the Boulting Brothers I'm All Right Jack five years later. The Ministry agrees to let the villagers run the railway for a month, when an inspection will decide if they can continue permanently.

An army of extras appears to refurbish the station, the carriages, and the tracks; the post-war ideal of community effort being brought into play, but for an anachronistic objective. The month's trial does not go entirely smoothly. There is conflict between the Vicar/driver and his poacher/fireman (Hugh Griffith), and attempts at sabotage by the bus operators (joined by Sid James's steamroller driver, Harry Hawkins, following a duel with the train locomotive). One attempt involves draining the water tower. Without water, the film says, the locomotive will explode, which is completely untrue - locomotive designers aren't that stupid – but this allows another army of extras to fortuitously appear to carry water in buckets, bedwarmers and baby baths (loaned without hesitation by a local farm) from a nearby stream to save the day. The British, however, love a plucky underdog, and soon the railway is a national tourist attraction and making a profit.

An apparently fatal disaster occurs on the night before the final inspection. The train is deliberately wrecked by Hawkins and the bus operators. Sadly reflecting on the end of an era, the Vicar has an inspiration – why not take the original locomotive Thunderbolt out of its museum, use the poacher/fireman's old railway-carriage home as a coach, and run those as the train? Another army of extras is found at 3a.m. to do the necessary work, and the train is ready for inspection by the next day.

The inspection is not, of course, incident-free. Thunderbolt breaks her coupling and another army of extras has to be found in the middle of the countryside to push until the train and locomotive can be brought together again. The Vicar decides to show what Thunderbolt can do and completes the trip at full speed. Finally, they pass the inspection, with a warning to the Vicar to watch his speed – another mile-an-hour and he would have broken the regulations. Order has been restored, Titfield preserved, and tradition maintained.

This synopsis rather deliberately plays up the anomalies of the plot. In Passport to Pimlico, the situation of a community of Londoners standing up to bureaucracy seemed almost plausible. Here, the humour is very forced and the situations artificial. It is true that private railways would spring up around the country to run preserved locomotives, but as museum pieces, not to preserve a way of life that was doomed to change anyway.

The film's strong points, if you are a railway enthusiast, are the opportunities to see steam locomotives in operation, and beautifully filmed. The highlight is, of course, Thunderbolt herself. She was the 'Lion', a locomotive of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, built in 1838. Painted in rich red and green for Technicolor purposes, she was actually steamed and ran under her own power, aged 114. The scene where she is re-joined to the uncoupled train resulted in damage to her tender which can still be seen today.

The Titfield Thunderbolt looks beautiful, and provides good fun for train buffs, but lacks the sharpness of earlier Ealing satires. This is an England filled with loveable eccentrics, who play cricket on the village green and drink mild-and-bitter in the local inn, The Grasshopper. In a few years Dr Beeching would produce his report on “The Restructuring of British Railways”, and the world represented by Titfield, with stations like Dogdyke, Tumby Woodside and Windmill End, would vanish forever.
Reviewer: Enoch Sneed

 

This review has been viewed 5942 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Enoch Sneed
  Louise Hackett
Darren Jones
Mark Le Surf-hall
Andrew Pragasam
Mary Sibley
Graeme Clark
  Desbris M
   

 

Last Updated: