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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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It's almost impossible for me to write a review of substance for The Titfield Thunderbolt, such is the love and unadulterated joy I have had with it for nigh on 40 years now. It was one of those magical moments in childhood when me, an obvious train set owner, caught this colourful {it was Ealing Studios first colour film} picture and took it all in like it was magic in a box. Of course back then I had no idea about the thematics of the picture, I just loved the train and the quirky characters that were making me laugh. But know here in a more modern age the film holds up better than most of its Ealing contemporaries, those themes back in the day are a reality. Villages are desperately clinging onto their identities, money mad conglomerates think nothing of heritage and the voice of the common man. And worst of all, the community spirit, the "tho shall not pass us" mentality has gone and in its place is fear and sadness.

Aye, I wonder if T.E.B. Clarke had any idea when he sat down to write The Titfield Thunderbolt, that he was not just writing a quaint story about villagers rising up to save their own Branch Line Railway. But that it would also be a freeze frame of a golden age in Britain, a snap-shot of a transport industry that was still 10 years away from being torn apart. I love The Titfield Thunderbolt like a family member, I really do. I can watch it now and it takes me away from this big old world that has gotten itself in one big hurry and strife. I laugh, I even weep tears of joy and I even get angry at the villains in the piece. It's the power of cinema in its truest form when a little village, a small train and some plucky courage in the rolling countryside can instill such emotions in a human being. 10/10
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This was one of the very first Technicolor movies to be filmed in England, which in its own right was a significant achievement. But what better way to mark this occasion than with such a simple commentary of rural and idyllic life? Many British films of this era don't age particularly well, which more often than not is a result of how we actually watch movies today (perhaps a lack of patience).

The Titfield Thunderbolt however continues to be one of my all time favourite British productions. It is an incredibly well rounded movie, reflecting just about everything that made post-war Britain such an exciting time in a new decade of economy and industry. Recorded are the portraits of unspoilt country landscapes, beaming in vibrant greens and pastel blue skies, with landmarks that many viewers have made efforts to compare to today. The movie also celebrates our bond with steam locomotives and the majesty of seeing them chuff down quiet rails - something that as a child, I was absorbed in.

Of course, the story itself does not disappoint. We witness a community of people that want nothing more than to save their local railway, and in typical circumstances, their efforts become almost outlandish. It is silly, but never over-the-top.

Studio Canal sourced dupe-negatives for this Blu-ray release, though the quality is that good that I can't imagine the actual camera negatives fairing much better in 1080p. It is a lovely video restoration that demonstrates a significant from past DVD's, particularly in the colour grading. It looks filmic now.

In short, Thunderbolt looks fantastic on Blu-ray, though I do wish the extra features were more extensive.
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on 6 January 2006
This was the first of the Ealing Studios films that I ever saw, and it is one of my most favourites. True, the plot isn't as strong as the wonderful Lady Killers or Lavender Hill Mob, but the nostalgic scenery and images of a since long gone era make it the perfect film to watch on a cold winter afternoon. If this doesn't warm your heart, nothing will!
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on 20 September 2007
This is one of my personal favourites from Ealing. The local railway line is threatened with closure (and replacement by a bus service). The village community decides to run the railway themselves, which causes the competing bus owners to engage in some underhand initiatives. This is the Britain of a bygone age, with gentle humour, steam trains, wonderful sunny British countryside and all in glorious colour! The casting is inspired, with lots of nice cameos (one of the best being Stanley Holloway as a boozy philanthropist who is encouraged to invest in the locally-run railway using the argument that he can have a licensed buffet car all day!). Good performances also from Hugh Griffith, John Gregson and Sid James. The enthusiasm of the local vicar for anything to do with steam trains is just wonderful to behold. Highly recommended!
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on 25 August 2000
'We were only out to provide entertainment that would fill cinemas on a rainy afternoon in post-war Britain'. That's how T.E.B. Clarke writer of "The Titfield Thunderbolt" dismisses any suggestion that the film is a classic.

The story concerns a British rural railway line, serving a small village called Titfield. British Railways want to close the line down, because it runs at a loss. However, the local vicar (Relph), town clerk (Wayne) and landowner (Gregson) want to save it. The baddies, Pearce and Crump (MacGowran and Roberts), own the local coach and bus company and are therefore delighted to hear that the railway is to close: They even buy a brand new bus on the strength of the news!

With help from local money-bags, Mr Valentine (Holloway), the supporters of the railway manage to BUY the branch line!

The remainder of the film depicts the battle (by fair means and foul - mainly the latter) between the two competing modes of transport. This culminates in a spectacular train crash sequence (perhaps the best model sequence in any UK fifties movie) and then the retrieval, from a museum, of an ancient locomotive called "The Titfield Thunderbolt"

The film's writer, T.E.B. Clarke, may dismiss any suggestion of it being a classic, yet that's how it seems to many people like myself who weren't even born when it was made. To get under the skin of this apparent contradiction we have to look at the factors that came together to make the film special - and the subsequent events that gave it a continuing life.

Like many classic films, Titfield was a fusion of skill, personalities and luck. The film's luck starts with having the impeccable Charles Crichton as director, and continues with the use of vivid Technicolor (I think it would be all but forgotten today, if it had been B&W). There's skill in the choices of location (Monkton Coombe, Freshford and Limpley Stoke near Bath, Somerset, UK) and in the excellent casting. There's wonderful cinematography by Douglas Slocombe and the whole serendipitous mix is capped off by the exteriors being shot during, what seems to have been, several weeks of brilliant sunny weather, heightening the beauty of the landscape and giving it a golden timeless quality.

The film's longevity came about because, after it was made, released and semi-forgotten, news events suddenly gave it a new currency. In the early 1960s a wholesale closure programme of loss-making British rural railway lines generated many 'Titfield' type situations throughout the UK. Perhaps rural communities battling to save their branch lines drew strength from the storyline of the film in which the villagers triumph against the dead hand of bureaucracy. The film acquired a new lease of life, and it has played on TV ever since and gathered new adherents in subsequent generations.

Crichton's direction is as sure-footed as Clarke's writing and the actors enjoy themselves enormously: especially Hugh Griffiths as Dan, the retired railwayman whom the villagers enlist to help them run the railway. With visually lovely locations, seemingly continual sunshine, longshots of cricket matches on the green and of course the old steam engines puffing through it all, the film is a delight to the eye as well as being an excellent entertainment.

The film conjours up a lost Britain in which - as Michael Palin once put it - 'the sun was always shining, and the trains were always friendly'.

Footnotes:

1) Titfield Thunderbolt out-takes are available in the UK on a VideoRail compilation. Bizarrely, the BBC's classic Dad's Army series contains a short shot of the 1401 Titfield train in an episode called "The Royal Train" in which there are several somewhat jumbled old train clips used to bolster the story line.

2) John Gregson's next project, Genevieve - another classic British film - was severely hampered by very bad weather. So 1952 wasn't ALL sunshine!

3) Simon Castens has produced a lovely little book (available through Amazon and elsewhere - just Google the title) called "On the Trail of the Titfield Thunderbolt" (ISBN 0953877108) which gives information about the specific shooting locations used in the film. If you're a fan of the movie and having a holiday in the Bath UK area, it makes a very pleasant day out to tour around these locations - almost all are within a 10 mile radius of Bath and in lovely countryside and villages. Freshford and Monkton are a particular joy. I have no connection with this book, other than as a satisfied reader of it.
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on 14 February 2002
How anybody can criticise such a film (see below) is totally beyond me.
A harmless, feel-good, jaunty film with sunny skies, good old steam railways and rolling, wooded countryside we hold dear to our hearts, all make for a trip that lifts the heart.
Buy it just to have it on your video shelf. On a rainy day, just watch it and feel a whole lot better.
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on 5 February 2001
Vintage Ealing comedy for trainspotters everywhere. When British Rail decides to rationalise the Titfield-Mallingford line out of existence,Villagers band together to run their own train. Eccentric Stanley Holloway puts up the cash so he can drink all day in the buffet car,The Reverend George Relph drives with visiting Bishop Godfrey Tearle stoking. But can the Thunderbolt be saved from devious local bus company bosses?
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on 19 August 2001
Reading Simon Winchester's great book "The Map that Changed the World" reminded me of this movie which I saw with our children in the 1950s and in which they greatly delighted. Winchester describes how William Smith discovered so much of the geological strata of Great Britain in the early nineteenth century through studying the landscape and underground conditions of the region around Bath and Bristol. He describes how Smith supervised the cutting of a canal between Limpley Stoke and Camerton, the later route of the very railway on which the "Titfield Thunderbolt" was shot. This piece of information made me go and buy a video of the movie to see the landscape which enthralled William Smith. Indeed, there is more to this movie than the plot or the actors - apart from the train itself of course!
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on 6 February 2013
Great fan of Ealing Comadies especally Titfield Thunderbolt. So was very much looking forward to this digitally remastered 60th edition of the film.

The extras like where and how it was made were interesting.

But, sync between video and audio has been lost somewhere in the digital remastering. This means in many scenes actors speech does not match movement of the mouth for example. I found this very irritating.

The video and audio remastering taken sepratly are excellent. But putting the two together the end result is lousy. I enjoy watching the un-remastered old DVD version far more.

Think carefully before buying this version - I would get the old DVD and let your player "upscale" for a far more enjoyable evening.
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on 9 June 2008
A classic film from Ealing Studios focusing on the glorious bygone days of British Railways.
The Titfield railway is up for closure. Mortified, the local community propose to run the railway themselves, competing with the local bus company. Superbly shot in the beautiful West Country in glorious technicolour and with steam trains and the atmosphere of the tranquil branch line galore. A bit strange in places, especially when we are expected to believe a steam engine can run off the rails, however, this is Ealing and nothing should be taken too seriously.
As this film centres around a railway closure, could this have been one of Dr. Beeching's favourites?
First class!!
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