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
The Thrilling Romance of London's Underground Railways. A man's heroic fight against overwhelming odds to save his honour and win the girl he loves. (Print Ad- Evening Post, ((Wellington, NZ)) 23 August 1930)
A lost masterpiece of silent cinema beautifully restored and scored
This is a magnificent film, the first credited film directed by Anthony Asquith, who was then only 26 years of age. His youthful energy, verve, and daring innovation show! Probably Asquith never directed such a brilliant film again in his long career. From a film as wonderful as this one, it was impossible to climb higher. The title refers to the London Underground, and much of the film was shot in Waterloo Underground Station, where one of the main characters works as a member of staff, what was known as a 'guard', whose duty it is to be helpful to passengers (alas, if we only still had them!). The performances of the four lead players are positively electrifying. Norah Baring's portrayal of a highly-strung young woman who goes over the edge is one of the most finely-judged portrayals of madness precipitated by desperate emotional trauma which I have ever seen on the screen. It is a perfect marvel. Cyril McLaglen gives an equally well-judged performance as a 'cad' who uses and discards women, and who when thwarted turns to deadly violence. This is a very passionate film, showing great extremes of human emotion in an entirely convincing manner. The most charming and delightful presence on screen is Elissa Landi, a gamine working class enchantress whose lively and original expressions, captivating eyes, and intensity are truly overwhelming. She is every bit as captivating as Clara Bow in IT (1927). Landi should have risen to be one of the major stars of British cinema, but it never happened. Here she is 24 years old, but she had only 19 years to live, as she died of cancer at the age of only 43. She never appeared in genuinely major films, and most film-lovers will only have seen her in AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936). She must have been a most interesting person, as she wrote six novels in her short life, as well as poetry. The 'good guy' in the film who comes into conflict with McLaglen as the 'bad 'un' is sympathetically and charmingly played by the very gentle Brian Aherne, who loves Landi but has to fight for her. The shots of London in 1928 are amazing. A great deal of the action in the latter part of the film takes place at Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea, which generated the electric power for the Underground, and where McLaglen works. Some fantastic fight and chase scenes take place there, including some hair-raising ones on the roof, which were clearly inspirational to Alfred Hitchcock, who later emulated them. I was sad to see the scene in the park, which had such beautiful old elm trees. When I saw the young couple sitting with their backs up against the familiar corrugated bark of a large elm, I nearly cried. How long it has been since we had those elms, and they will never come again in our lifetimes! Dutch Elm Disease killed every one in Britain. The elms were the stately trees which once defined the English countryside and parks. The cinematography for this film by Stanley Rodwell, his very first screen credit, is outstanding, and there are many shots strikingly influenced by German expressionism. We get such wonderful shots of the Underground, including evocative moving shots going along the tunnels both towards and away from a point of light in the distance. The waiting crowds of 1928 on the platforms seem as real as yesterday in this crisp and brilliant frame by frame restoration by the British Film Institute of this great silent classic. There is a fascinating booklet with the DVD-Blu Ray box, and the extras are not to be missed. No one watching this classic can possibly be disappointed, as it is moving as a drama and spectacular as a vision of a lost era. I was amused to see a scene shot in the quaint little pedestrian street known as Thistle Grove, in Fulham, where a friend of mine once lived. It is a little-known charming secret of London, which has changed little in the past century. This film really sweeps one away, and ranks amongst the very best silent films ever made. It has been issued with a marvellous score composed by Neil Brand, which suits the film perfectly and greatly enhances its power and its sheer magic. Don't hesitate for one moment, but get this remarkable film without delay!
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