The Swingin' Maiden (1963) Poster

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" must be related to those Gor-Blimeys we have heard so much about...."
Brucey_D12 February 2017
An American airline executive, together with his wife and daughter visit Britain with a view to placing a contract for a new supersonic airliner. However two companies are offering rival products, and between trips to Ascot and Henley, the pretty but wilful daughter wreaks havoc (earning herself a spanking along the way...) whenever she meets one of the aircraft designers, who is also a steam enthusiast. Who will win the contract? Will the daughter find love?.

This Peter Rogers production was a one-off film. It will be compared to other quaint transport-related films (Genevive, Titfield Thunderbolt etc) as well as the 'Carry-On' films. Whilst such comparisons are not unfair, this film is really its own thing.

The cast is OK, with some good cameo performances and minor roles from excellent actors. Some folk will criticise Michael Craig's somewhat stiff performance, but I'm not sure this is entirely justified; he has to play it pretty straight, else he wouldn't be a credible aircraft designer. Could you imagine (say) gurning Jim Dale as an aircraft designer? -thought not...!.

An interesting feature of this film are the steam engines, aircraft, cars etc seen in various locations. We get to see (briefly) the liner 'United States' at Southampton dock, the (very 'Dan Dare' -looking) Handley-Page Victor at the Radlett works, with various 'Heralds' in the background and various cars. An Alvis 3-litre makes an appearance, (as does an Austin Princess I think) and the main cars used (a Cadillac and two Rolls-Royces) are seen in many locations, including several accidental ones; in several shots the Cadillac or the Rolls Royce can be seen 'in the wrong place' in the background.

Other locations used include the A404 (several times), Henley regatta (which would look the same even today), various pubs (which still exist) and Woburn Abbey, (which is used for two different steam rallies). The Duke of Bedford (owner of Woburn Abbey, and a supporter of the steam preservation movement) has a cameo appearance as himself. I think the stream/pond where they fill up with water en route may be the same one as was used in 'Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang' too.

The two main traction engines used in the film still exist, but the aircraft (reputedly XL230) does not; it was later lost (tragically with all crew) in a training accident at RAF Wyton in 1973. A sister aircraft XL231 still exists. Some folk criticise the Victor in this film as not being a credible supersonic airliner; this is right of course, it isn't supersonic and is a smaller and lighter aircraft all round. However it isn't an entirely ridiculous notion; a transport derivative of the Victor was planned, (with seating for 200 troops or 145 airline passengers) in a double-decker cabin.

The script isn't quite first class and there are a few plot holes, but overall this is a very watchable film nonetheless; largely underplayed and with gentle humour, I rather enjoyed it.
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Magical British Comedy
robjam2 December 2012
I first saw this in in the cinema when it was released. A big treat at the time. Later recorded it off the TV and would love to buy the DVD. It isn't perfect and there are plot holes however, it only requires a little suspension of disbelief.

It's a warm family film and gives me comfort in stressful times. A step up from the Carry Ons with some magnificent cameo performances.

The machinery is fascinating and this film is where my love of traction engines began. The cars are also stars. It's also a reminder of the days when we had a vibrant aircraft industry.

The English countryside in summer has never looked better.

There is just sufficient jeopardy and romance to make a complete story.
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One of my top ten
srxfacebook4 July 2011
Technically weak, but then I'm an anorak. Delightful story, and invaluable film of the early steam preservation movement in the UK. It is good to see so many traction engines and steam rollers Did I mention the "Safety Valve"? To those in the know I don't need to, the throbbing, sweaty looking brass thing in front of the driver is supposed to be a safety valve, it is in fact a lubricator and clouting it with a hammer would make no difference whatsoever. (Also it is in totally the wrong place!) At the time of filming The Iron Maiden (or Kitchener to give her her proper name) was owned by a gentleman called John Crawley who actually doubled for Anne Helm for some of the driving shots. The Iron Maiden (yes, the name stuck) is still around today and can regularly be seen at various steam rallies around the countryside. All technical inaccuracies aside, just enjoy, they don't make 'em like that any more.
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Great movie of the Era!
profpinz10 June 2007
I LOVE it! It's a classic British movie in the same guise as "Genieve", "True as a Turtle" and "Dads Army". I rarely pay much attention to movie experts and critics, because inevitably if they love a movie, I'II hate it and visa versa! .... and all the reports I've heard over the years about this movie only acknowledge my thoughts!

The Iron Maiden is just a good Saturday afternoon style movie with no violence, loud music or crazy film affects ..... I like to sit back and just enjoy it for the entertaining classic it is.

The Traction engines in the movie are a bonus, but what a bonus as is the cars and the scenery in general! It takes me back to a time when things were simpler and more basic and comedy was something that you instantly laughed or snickered at without having to think about it first!

I'd have to say it's one of my favorite British movies of the era.
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A Delightful Experience
hernebay5 February 2002
Anyone unchastened by the dogmas of Political Correctness will find "The Iron Maiden" a delightful experience. Gender roles remain refreshingly undeconstructed. Michael Craig is a hero of surpassing manliness, while Anne Helm is a heroine of beguiling, if occasionally infuriating, femininity. Craig is a first-rank aircraft designer for Cecil Parker's top-flight (pun fully intended) aviation firm.

In classic "Pride and Prejudice"/"Jane Eyre" fashion, initial aversion is quickly translated into hopeless infatuation, a process much assisted by the allure deficit of Craig's hapless romantic (and business) rival, John Standing, a chinless wonder to end all chinless wonders. Pivotal to the proceedings is Anne Helm's commandeering of Craig's beloved traction engine, the eponymous Iron Maiden, which earns her a richly-deserved spanking. After this key event, even the social ambitions of her foolish mother, which favour the advances of Standing, cannot deflect the course of true love. Craig bonds spectacularly with Helm's aircraft tycoon father, and he goes on to win the Woburn traction engine rally against his other key rival, Admiral Digby Trevelyan, with the eventual assistance of the tycoon's chastened daughter.
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The best film ever made about a traction engine
vaughan.birbeck8 February 2002
Which isn't saying much, let's face it. What is it about the British and old vehicles? Not only do we love them but we insist on making movies about them ('Genevieve' and 'The Titfield Thunderbolt', both from 1953, spring to mind). This film doesn't have the classic status of these earlier films. I think the writing has to take a lot of the blame, the characters are poorly drawn and not believable, while the editing often lets down what could be a punchline.

The cast also divides between those who can play comedy (such as Cecil Parker, Noel Purcell and Jim Dale) and those who can't (the lead players unfortunately).

To my mind the funniest character is Noel Purcell's Admiral Trevelyan with his blasphemous demands to his fireman (the local Vicar): "Hell's bells! Don't just stand there! Pray, blast ya, pray!!!"
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A fun if slight feature
Leofwine_draca5 February 2016
THE IRON MAIDEN is a film that feels for all the world like the producers were able to hire a traction engine for a month or so and decided to write a script around it. What follows is a typically genteel British comedy full of the usual hijinks and appearances from familiar faces; it's hardly classic material, but it remains a fun if slight feature from beginning to end.

The film was made by the director/producer team of Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers, best known for their long-running CARRY ON series, and indeed they throw in a couple of cameos for Jim Dale and Joan Sims early on in a bid to hammer home the similarities. Unfortunately the script is saddled with a couple of stiffs for the lead roles, but the supporting cast is much more enjoyable and includes parts for the familiar likes of George Woodbridge and Sam Kydd. Best of all is the alluring Anne Helm, impossibly glamorous as the female lead.
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Flops in the footsteps of two illustrious predecessors
trimmerb123420 November 2016
Genevieve (1952) about the annual London to Brighton veteran car rally, and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1954) about plucky villagers running their own countryside railway, were two classic and much loved British film comedies where the charm of colourful memorable characters vied with that of quaint machinery. Iron Maiden exactly follows that formula but comprehensively fails. Why? Most obviously Michael Craig who completely lacks the wonderful redeeming charm of similar obsessives Kenneth More and John Gregson.

It may just be that the appeal of veteran cars as well as old railways was more the countryside they travelled through and that they carried people and all their goods. Steam traction engines in contrast were essentially industrial and agricultural machines - the fancy decoration only applied to fairground showmans' machines. Cars and trains intimately involve human stories - traction engines - seen here just doing circles in front of enthusiasts - don't. The late much-missed TV star steam enthusiast Fred Dibnah suffered the departure of his wife over his unshared obsession with a steam traction engine. Again, for the public, he, his charm and his very human story was the interest, not the ironmongery.

That traction engine obsessive Craig is also a cutting edge aircraft designer is not explained or persuasive. Apart from rare quality footage of the Victor nuclear bomber standing in for a new airliner, the aviation plot is limp.

The film trundles along the runway without ever gathering enough speed take off.
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The Carry on team play with Traction Engines.
MIKE-WILSON630 June 2001
Ten years after Genevieve, the film makers tried to repeat the success with this story of traction engines. Where Genevieve had several things going for it, like a good story, interesting characters, and the London to Brighton rally, This story just doesn't work. Michael Craig plays Jack Hopkins, an aircraft designer who's hobby is traction engines. When he, after some early sparring , falls for the daughter of an American airline owner. The rest of the story is set at the usual British summer settings, the Henley regatta, and the Woburn Rally, but the story falls flat. John Standing, Ronald Culver, and the Duke of Bedford give good support. One flaw in the story, is that the passenger aircraft Craig has designed, is shown as one of country's V bombers from the 1960's, hardly big enough to fly hundreds of passengers.
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Who knew about steam traction engine fairs? Now I do!
SimonJack6 June 2020
While I had seen a couple other British movies in which there were old tractors and vehicles of this sort, until "The Iron Maiden" [aka, "The Swingin' Maiden"), I had never heard of (or thought about, for that matter) steam fairs or traction engine derbies and competitions. That is one of the delights of this movie - it gives a nice picture of a tradition and apparent fad amongst the upper crust and/or eccentrics in the UK. But, wait a minute. In looking it up online, I discovered that there are about 30 such events held annually in the U.S. And, there are a few in half a dozen other countries as well. But, with more than 40 events in the UK, it has more than all the other countries - save the U.S., combined.

So, having discovered all this, I delight in realizing once again that one is never too old to learn.

This is a delightful little comedy, built around the historical aspect of these early inventions. The plot has a nice contrast of the old with the new, in that the various parties come together (one way or another) over the sale or acquisition of the latest super passenger plane design. It, too, is a competition in this film. Not between races or aerial demonstrations, but over a production purchase contract. Again, that's what brings the characters together. As others point out, the planes used for the film are military aircraft of the day, not new passenger planes.

The humor is mostly situational and a very good cast does well. The cast is a mix of prominent and lesser known actors of the day. The most familiar to movie buffs will be Michael Craig as Jack Hopkins, Cecil Parker as Sir Giles Thompson, Roland Culver as Lord Upshot, and Alan Hale Jr. as Paul Fisher. On screen, Michael Craig frequently reminds me of Rod Taylor. They look alike in films around that 30-40 age, but of course, in their personal photos and up close their different appearances are clear.

Toward the end, all the main characters wind up at the National Traction Engine Championship which is held at the abbey. This is a nice picture with scenes of the country and Woburn Abbey. This English landmark dates to 1145 when it was founded as a Cistercian abbey (a branch of the Benedictine Order). When Henry VIII split with the Catholic Church in the 1530s, he confiscated all the Catholic properties. Most of the churches became Anglican Churches. Henry dispersed other properties for various political purposes. In 1547, he gave the Woburn Abbey to John Russell, whom he made the 1st Earl of Bedford. It has been the seat of the family and the Dukes of Bedford since then. The early Dukes demolished the original abbey buildings and in 1744 the abbey was mostly rebuilt. The abbey today, seen in the film, had undergone considerable changes due to deterioration and renovation over time - the last just before World War II. Today, it's grounds include a large wild animal park, and the estate endures mostly through tourism.

This is another one of those films that had it's original title changed. And, another example of a dumb, if not poor choice, considering that the script refers to the Iron Maiden innumerable times and it becomes the name of the new aircraft at the end. One wonders about the minds of the moguls who make such decisions. Were they hallucinating in Hollywood at the time? Or, were the Brits balmy? The only possible interpretation for "The Swingin" Maiden," would have to refer to the female lead, Jeff Donnell, who plays Miriam Fisher. But, if she was the image of "swinging" by those who renamed this film, they must just have emerged after 60 years in a dungeon.

This isn't a fast-moving film, so younger audiences of modern days may not be able to sit still for it. But everyone else should enjoy it.

Here are some favorite lines.

Lord Upshot, "And for heaven's sake, don't try and talk business." Humphrey Gore-Brown, "Yes, father." Lord Upshot, "You know absolutely nothing about it."

Lord Upshot, "Remember, the quickest way to any American millionaire's checkbook is through his women folk."

Paul Fisher, "It's very nice of you to come down and meet us. Perhaps we'll see you in London." Humphrey Gore-Brown, "Well, I didn't realize you had your own car with you. You see, I brought the Rolls to take you to London, as it were." Paul Fisher, "Oh. Well again, that's very kind of you, but uh, well, just a plain old Cadillac is good enough for us."

Vicar, "Now, admiral, please." Admiral, "Oh, hells bells, Vicar, it's about time you realize that all's fair in love and war and the Woburn Running. Now get aboard."

Miriam. Fisher, "Come on, Kathy. We may be just in time to save your father from making an international fool of himself." Kathy, "Mother, why is it that every time your pleased with daddy, he's your husband, and when he's fallen he's my father?

Miriam Fisher, "Paul, say something." Paul fisher, "Shut up!"

Admiral, "Don't stand there, vicar. Pray! Pray!"
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Carry On No. 6A
michaelarmer12 May 2020
Its not called 'The Swingin' Maiden' that is a recent made up name, for some unknown reason to me, it has always been 'The Iron Maiden', note the name of the engine in the film. I gave this review that title as its made by the Carry On team and includes some of their actors, it could have been called "Carry on Steaming" , but maybe not, its not really in the Carry On style, its more like an Ealing Comedy, the Carry on Actors are Joan Sims and Jim Dale, with Cyril Chamberlain who also did Ealing comedies and Judith Furse who did a variety of stuff.

Its more of a 50's Rom Com (although made in the 60's) style, and similar style and content to Genevive with Kenneth More, this time its got Michael Craig, with Anne Helm as his American love interest. Its a pretty good film, nice countryside, with good photography, and its well made. The big stars are of course the steam traction engines and the guest star the Handley Page Victor, one of the beautiful V-Bombers from the 50's.

If you want to fantasise what 1950's England was like, this is the film, although if it ever was like that it was only in small parts, its not like that any more, and mostly it never was.

But it is a lovely film, and while the lockdown is in full flow, something very nice to watch any afternoon.
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All steamed up about nothing
malcolmgsw24 March 2016
I remember seeing this film at my local cinema.It made no impression on me then and even less on me now.The only appeal that this can have is to those whose hobby is steam engines.The script is worthless.Even such actors as Cecil Parker Roland Culver and Joan Simms can do little to inject any humour.One of the problems is that the leads are rather poor.Alan Hale is not a patch on his great father.Michael Craig seems to play his role on a previous attitude throughout and is thoroughly dislikeable.Anna Helm is only distinguished by her continuous change of dress in nearly every scene.If you were not interested in steam engines before you will be even less interested after.
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Rather thin.
g-hbe26 January 2020
This film always strikes me as a 'Carry On' that never quite hit the bar. Even the music (by Eric Rogers) is very similar to the Carry On incidental music and sounds suspiciously like Carry On Cabby. The story is very thin and there are plenty of gaping plot-holes. It's one of those films that you can watch whilst reading the newspaper and not miss much. Nice to see Alan Hale Jr joining in the fun though.
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