Showing posts with label Charles Chrichton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Chrichton. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953): A Review by Kyle Edwards

The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) is an early-1950s British comedy which tells a story similar to many real occurrences throughout the world. After Britain's large, nationalized railroad company "British Railways" decides to cease operations over a rural branch line, a small group of concerned locals spring into action to buy the lot of it and save their treasured train. Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the ragtag group manages to defy the odds and preserve the rail line.

This film is the Orient Express of cinema, providing a scenic, entertaining connection between varied points; these being suspense, clever humor and heartwarming satisfaction. The primary antagonists in the film are a pair of gentlemen who wish to gain from the closure of the rail line by offering bus service in place of the train. After these men fail to block the new railroad from gaining government approval to operate, they take matters into their own hands. Several devious attempts at sabotaging the railway are made — all appear successful at first. However, the ingenuity, determination and teamwork displayed by the group aboard the train prevails every time. Throughout the film, the rails are blocked, the critically essential water tower is ruined and drained, and the entire train is even set loose and forced to derail. Wherever the bus company men do their worst... the railroad men and women do far better.

The Titfield Thunderbolt has a captivating storyline, solid cinematography and a skilled cast. The plot itself, though fictional, is based on the story of the Talyllyn Railway in Wales — which became the world's first railway to be preserved by volunteers in 1951. In a broader sense, the film is very representative of things to come in the years that followed. As railroads around the globe experienced increasing overall decline throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many groups appeared from thin air and saved historic railways and equipment from total destruction. In this film, there's some truth behind the added element of the seemingly-evil bus operators trying to destroy the railway. Motorcoach, trucking, automobile and airline companies all applied heavy pressure on the railroad industry in their formative years — both directly and by pushing for government regulations that lined their pockets at the expense of the high iron.

This movie beautifully captures the inherent nostalgia of the railroad and the love that many people — of all ages — have for the steam train. Although many historic rail lines have been lost forever, The Titfield Thunderbolt's success story, though fictional, provides a burst of joy that makes the viewer grateful for the existing real-life success stories. As with the preservation of any object, machine or place, there must be a lot of care and determination for there to be any resulting positive outcome. This film, though light and humorous, highlights the perseverance of those who wish to save things that are at risk for obliteration. Just like a real rail line, this film has plenty of ups, downs and unexpected twists. But it's fun, thrilling and very much worth the ride.

The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) is available on Blu-ray from Film Movement.

Thank you to Film Movement for providing a copy for review.

Kyle Edwards of Trainiac Productions

"I enjoy long walks on the beach, but prefer to study railroad history, photograph the giant machinery in action and enjoy any films from days gone by. I love to create as much as I love to enjoy the creations of others."

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