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United Kingdom 1953
Directed by
Charles Crichton
80 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Titfield Thunderbolt

If you’re am Anglophile or a dyed-in-the-wool fan of British film comedies of the 1950s, of which Ealing was the pre-eminent production house, then this typical-enough slice of Home County tweeness, a kind of Thomas The Tank Engine for adults will suit. For the rest of us it is slim pickings and, rather surprisingly for the category, a film with an incongruous element of violence, even if the violence is handled with mild-mannered geniality.

Titfield is a (fictional) Kentish hamlet with its own branch rail line. When this is threatened with closure and replacement by a bus service, the local squire and train-fancying vicar spearhead a grassroots move to operate the line themselves. This means going head-to-head with the greedy owners of the bus service and hence the aforesaid violence.

With the stock roster of stars of the era including Stanley Holloway, John Gregson and Sid James playing the familiar array of endearingly eccentric English characters there are no surprises to be had as Crichton delivers the script with an economical flair. The film was Ealing’s first foray into Technicolor and the picture-postcard Kentish countryside looks a treat. The Titfield Thunderbolt is the kind of film which is likely to either delight or disappoint depending on the vagaries of the moment.





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