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The residents of a small English village are about to lose their ancient railroad. They decide to rescue it by running it themselves, in competition with the local bus company. Written by
Blair Stannard <email@example.com>
If you havn't watched this delightful piece of fun, just sit back and enjoy the ride. It's a great film. If you don't like railway locomotives, don't worry, there's so much more to it all than that. The story is a touch daft but very likeable, the characters are much the same as the story in that respect.The scenery is utterly gorgeous and the trains and buses take on a charming human aspect that makes this a kind of prototype, live-action THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE ! The comedy is typical of the Ealing studios at their very best.It's subtle, it's warm, it's wry and it's ironic.The script allows for suitably eccentric characterisation while remaining very British and amusingly restrained. However the premise of a village about to be cut off from it's railway lifeline is only too real. This film actually forecast the dreadfull effects of the Beeching railway massacre a decade later in Britain. Then, a whole century of incredible development in public transport was literally wiped out at the whim of the infamous government hit-man, Dr Beeching. A notorious character who slashed away the infrastructure so carefully created by men of vision as a sop to political morons unable to see beyond the bottom line of a balence sheet. At the time THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT was filmed the full effects of line closures on rural hamlets was still some way in the future and perhaps now, in hindsight,having seen the truth of it all, the film gains an ironic and touching element that it probably never had on release. I have heard that the film has only gained it's cult status in later years, and didn't actually do that well at the box office when released. Perhaps the story simply rings more truly now than it did then, or maybe it's simply the glorious look of rural 1950s England that has increased it's appeal over the decades? The central concept of the entire village pulling together - and paying - to keep the line open by running it themselves is sadly one quite alien to the rural England of the 21st century.Todays villages are part holiday-haven, part dormitary. The people who live their often can't find work nearby and many of the houses remain empty much of the time, used only as holiday cottages. The spirit of togetherness seen in the mythical Titfield has ebbed very quickly in the decades since the movie was made. I know, I have lived all my life in an area that suffered badly from 1960s railway-destruction! Back in the 1950s one could almost imagine the village spirit seen in the film, a peacetime spirit-of-the-blitz in fact. But not now. That adds yet more layers of whistful whimsy to the story, more concentration to the serious shot of nostalgea it supplies. Forget the petrol rationing and hardships of real life at the time,watch this film and you can't help wanting to live there! Charles Crighton's loving direction certainly makes the most of the rural locations in South Western England.Little vignettes of white horses frolicking if the fields and chaotic country stations suddenly taken over by runaway livestock give a honey tinted picture postcard vision of the English countryside. Pre-supermarkets and road-humps a more perfect place is hard to imagine. It's almost a visual cliche and yet I know the actual locations still exist today and look very much the same. There is still a railway running through the valley and a canal that still carries boats.Maybe the picture postcard is not quite so unbelievable as it might seem? Say what you like about the film from a technicians or drama critics point of view, it's simply wonderfull to sit through as a human being. Enjoy.
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