A working-class love story set in and around the London Underground of the 1920s. Two men - gentle Bill and brash Bert - meet and are attracted to the same woman on the same day at the same...
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A working-class love story set in and around the London Underground of the 1920s. Two men - gentle Bill and brash Bert - meet and are attracted to the same woman on the same day at the same Underground station. But the lady chooses Bill, and Bert isn't the type to take rejection lightly... Written by
My viewing of this film was at the world premiere of the restoration on the 23rd October 2009 at a Gala in the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the London Film Festival.
This is the first time that the BFI have done a Gala for a film restoration at the film festival, and I think they were quite pleased with themselves, and so they should be. This follows on from their recent revival of Anthony Asquith's great movie The Cottage on Dartmoor which has found it's way into the hearts of quite a few British film lovers. Before this, to even many film buffs, British silent cinema meant nothing except maybe they know of Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger. Well British quality cinema did not start with Powell & Pressburger folks!
Approximately 80% of British silent output is destroyed as it was a fairly normal practise back in the days to recycle film stock for the silver content after the theatrical run had gone quiet. One of the great British film archives was liquidated for silver content after the owner went bankrupt. Apparently the celluloid content was taken to line aircraft wings!
To the movie, which concerns a love story that takes place for a large part on the then new phenomenon of the London underground. The movie takes some pleasure in exploiting the comedy value that arises from folks of all different social classes and walks of life sharing carriages in close proximity. Things have changed as I think it's really rather unlikely that you will run into a toff on the London underground. But perhaps they enjoyed the thrill of the novel back then.
Underground is mostly a love story, concerning two men vying for the same woman, Nell, whom they both meet on the Underground. Bert is a bit of a caddish upstart (if pushed a nasty upstart) who grinningly thinks to himself he's God's gift to women, which, however handsome he is, he is not, whilst Bill is a porter on the underground who is rather more genteel and respectful. In the real world it's probably a nice guy comes last situation, but on the silver screen it's pretty clear it's going to be Bill's who is favoured, right from frame one. That's not going to spoil the pathos though, really right the way through there's a significant amount of emotional sustenance. We want to know what Bert is going to have to say about it! The scene that worked the best for me was in the park where Bill and Nell have a picnic. It can be described with no other word than magical, it makes the heart swell with gladness. There's a combination of warmth, humour and nature that is transcendent.
Technically the film is quite advanced there's a pub brawl that works particularly effectively where a punch is thrown at the camera before light's out, so you get a POV knock out. The perpetually disinterested landlady had the audience in hysterics. It's a film really that if announced as an Alfred Hitchcock movie would not raise many eyebrows. There's enough sauce, humour and action to qualify.
The event took place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and was accompanied by the Prima Vista Social Club who did a very good job. Particularly speaking, whenever there were instruments being played in the movie by extras, a member of the band switched over to said instrument.
The only slight issue I had with the film was that the characters (as in The Cottage on Dartmoor), are overmakeupped.
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