Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray Featured

Sunday, 13 January 2013 15:24
Posted in Blu-Ray
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The Titfield Thunderbolt - out on Blu-ray and DVDCommunity spirit, ingenuity and charity overcome deceitful commercial forces, in this charming and whimsical tale of how a village fights back after its local railway is threatened with closure. An Ealing Films’ production, the film was written by Academy Award winner T E B Clarke (“The Lavender Hill Mob”), and directed by Charles Crichton (“A Fish Called Wanda”). It has been specially re-mastered to celebrate its 60th anniversary.

The Titfield to Mallingford line is a loss-making branch line but the locals love it dearly. When British Rail announces its closure, they come together to make a bid to run it themselves. They are given a month to prove that they are up to the job, but a sly local bus company is determined to stop them in their tracks. The harder the villagers strive to succeed, the more underhand and destructive the methods employed by the bus firm.

This really is a heart-warming tale of a village pulling together for a common goal, regardless of class, background or ability. Every willing person is able to lend something to the project, be it tending to the railway station’s plants, cleaning the platform, mending the tracks or driving the train itself. Having said that, their motivations are not always entirely wholesome, as in the example of the main investor, a Mr Valentine (Stanley Holloway – “Brief Encounter”) who is attracted to the project by the prospect of a bar that opens the moment the train departs!

The core of the story concerns the employees of the bus company’s efforts to derail the campaign, and the amusing and clever ways the train folk come up with to thwart them. For example, a dubious character played by the one-and-only Sid James is hired to try to barge the train off its tracks using his steam roller. The two engines confront each other and then have a duel to see which one will be victorious. In another example, the water tower user to refill the engine is shot at to drain it, with the knock-on effect of the engine dangerously overheating. The Titfield people will not be beaten so easily, however.

This delightful movie reminded me of a very gentle version of the late Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable”, in that it features many loving shots of steam trains, beautiful countryside and scenes of mild peril. Some of the characters also conjured up memories of Father Ted, especially the men of the cloth and a cheeky poacher (wonderfully played by Hugh Griffith – “Ben Hur”, “Oliver!”) who toils as the train’s ‘fireman’. Some of the scenarios are highly improbable but are carried off with such flair and joy that you gladly find yourself swept along for the ride.

Special features on both formats include:

  • Making “The Titfield Thunderbolt”
  • Douglas Slocombe Home Movie Footage
  • The Lion Locomotive - Featurette
  • Locations Featurette
  • Stills Gallery
  • Restoration comparison
  • Douglas Slocombe on Charles Crichton audio interview
  • Trailer

On the DVD version reviewed, the restoration comparison clearly highlights how blemishes and noise has been removed. The picture is a little yellow in tone but that may be by design to give it more warmth (or purely a result of the age of the film!).

“The Titfield Thunderbolt" (1953) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Studiocanal. The main feature has a running time of 82 minutes approx, carries a ‘U’ certificate and retails for £15.99 on DVD and £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com


Last modified on Sunday, 13 January 2013 15:28

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