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Ronald Walter Barker,
It is pouring with rain at one minute to midnight on Friday the thirteenth, and the driver of a London bus is peering through his blurred windscreen as his vehicle sails down an empty road. Suddenly, lightning strikes, and a vast crane above topples into the path of the oncoming bus... Then Big Ben begins to wind backwards. Time recedes. And we discover the lives of all the passengers and the events that brought them to that late-night bus journey, from the con-man with a hundred-pound cheque to the businessman's distraught and elderly wife. Time flows on, inevitably, to the crash -- and past it, as some live and some die. Written by
Towards the beginning of the film Jessie Matthews (playing Millie) asks the bus conductor (played by her husband Sonnie Hale) "You won't forget to put me off at Linden Gardens, will you?" Sonnie's prompt reply is "No fear!" -- there was very little chance of his forgetting that particular address, since his own flat in Linden Gardens had seen the beginning of their relationship only a few years earlier... See more »
Brilliant multi-story drama with lots of London location shooting
This film is a splendid achievement, weaving together satisfactorily as it does the stories of a group of people preceding their coming together one fatal evening on a London Number 134 bus. The evening is that of Friday the thirteenth, and disaster occurs, as lightning strikes a crane and causes it to come crashing down onto the bus. Two people are killed, but we are not allowed to know which two until the end of the film's multiple flashbacks. Numerous well known actors of the period appear in this ensemble drama. One character, a slippery and unctuous crook named Blake who 'lives by his wits', is superbly played by Emlyn Williams, who also wrote the electric and crackling dialogue for this film. The wit and quickness of the complex dialogue helps to give this film a much deeper dimension. The young female lead is played by Jessie Matthews, who is as charming as her audience at the time would have expected, considering how popular she was then, and indeed deserved to be. The film is wonderfully directed by Victor Saville. He had already worked with Matthews and would do so again, as he would with Emlyn Williams the following year. The multi-stories are really well-structured and take place in a variety of locations. This gives us a treat, for we are able to see many areas of London as they were in 1932. I noticed for instance that the price of a payphone call at that time was only tuppence. And on the bus itself, someone asks for 'a penny ticket' but then realizes he has been robbed of all his money before boarding the bus, so Emlyn Williams, feeling flush after a blackmail payoff, holds up a single copper and gives it to the bus conductor. Yes, bus conductors! And how we miss them! They were always good for a laugh and some banter, as well as useful advice on which was really the best stop, and how to change, and how long everything would take. I am only surprised that bus conductors, although long gone, have not also been replaced by call centres in India so that people are asked on their mobile phones to press 1, 2, 3, or 4, for their travel advice nowadays, since humans have gone out of fashion. There are many fine performances in the film, such as by Ralph Richardson and Max Miller the music hall comedian. We see extensive shots of the old Caledonian Market at its original site off Caledonian Road in Islington, which closed when the Second World War began. (After the War it reopened at Bermondsey.) There is indeed a great deal to see of Pre-War London, and a great deal to enjoy from a very fine film.
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