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on 20 June 2013
Despite what the other reviewer said, this is a very good film and not at all dull. It shows a Britain long gone and has artistic flourishes which Hitchcock showed little of during most of his silent film career. There seems to be an knee jerk response amongst some people to compare many British film directors to Hitchock, not sure way as it is possible to assess and enjoy other directors on their own merits. Hitchcock's silent films are a variable bunch, some good, some mundane and routine, most withouth any of the qualities and flourishes he would later bring to bear.

Asquith is a great British director long forgotten which is sad as this and A Cottage On Dartmoor, leave us a tantilising taste of his skill.
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on 25 June 2013
This was the movie that got me buying a Blu-ray player, and I would say that despite the age of the source material, the quality of the print presented justifies hi-def. It is amazing the work that has been done providing a picture as good as would have been seen at the time in the cinema, a restoration perhaps triggered by the discovery overseas of a print of the movie enabling the damaged parts of the previous viewing print (from 1948) to be replaced. From parts of the original camera negative and two prints a wet gate print is made (by printing under a liquid with a similar refractive index to film base, the liquid fills scratches in the base, minimising their effect on the print) before applying modern digital restoration techniques to further enhance the image quality.
Something that surprised me (although with DVD and BluRay discs included it's academic) is that the BluRay had fewer extras than the DVD! Both have a featurette on the restoration of "UndergrounD" and the short "Under Night Streets", the DVD has another four shorts including the celebrated footage shot on the Metropolitan Railway in 1910, travelling out from Baker Street (I bet that gets a good few YouTube hits!) although it is the feature, with the emphasis on ordinary folk, that is of course the main attraction.

The language of the silent film is different to that of the "talkie" and sometimes requires much closer scrutiny of the image on the screen (seems obvious, I know - sorry about that) - but features such as UndergrounD provide a window into a world that is gone forever although we are privileged to glimpse shadows and hear echoes via contemporary films and recordings.

Coupled with which, of course, it's a cracking good story. and British....
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 September 2013
Recently restored by the British Film Institute, this is a silent drama from Anthony Asquith (son of H.H. Asquith British Prime Minister during WW1). He would go on to make some classic films including `The Winslow Boy' and `The Yellow Rolls Royce'). As his first outing he took the story of four simple London characters and placed them in the social context of the London Underground, where the film gets its' title from.

These are Nell who works in a department store, Bert who is an electrician, Kate who shares his boarding lodgings and is a seamstress and Bill who works on the Underground. Both Bill and Bert run into Nell on the same day and both are smitten with her womanly charms. Whilst Bert is a bit of a spiv, Bill is more dependable and cuts a dashing figure in his uniform and matinee idol good looks, so is already ahead on points.

Bert is a man who gets his own way and if he can't have Nell then no one can. He will use anyone to achieve his own ends. This means the story will inevitably build to a dramatic conclusion. This was made at a time when an appetite for melodrama was high and hence some of the `action' here may be seen as far fetched, especially the scenes shot at Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea. We also have proper old fashioned acting, with long stares and exaggerated emotions. The musical score, which is completely new, was written by Neil Brand (a silent film specialist) and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and tells the story as much as the on screen antics.

This is a beautiful restoration by the BFI but it is some of the scene quality varies. The real gems are some of the ancillary things that I found to be most interesting especially the underground scenes. There are signs advising people not to sit on the stairs of the escalators and even how to get off, by putting your right foot first. The first caption in the film says `Passing Warren Street' and that was something I had done that vey evening so marvellous to see the changes. This a perfect time capsule of 1920's London and also has a fair bit of social history all wrapped up in an engaging story. I absolutely loved it and can only offer gushing praise to the BFI for continuing to rescue pieces of film history like this.
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on 23 June 2013
I've been looking forward to seeing this for a long time, as I couldn't be bothered to go to the BFI screening, and I wasn't disappointed.

It's pointless to judge eighty or ninety year old silent films by the same criteria as modern productions and, by the standards of its own time, it has aged pretty well. Yes, the stories are relatively simple - they need to be in order to be conveyed by mime plus a few intertitles - and the film-makers were still struggling to make the best of the technical limitations; but there are rich compensations.

The quality of the restored film is very good so that the location shots of 1920's London and the Underground are wonderful - especially for a `London and its transport' geek like me. It's also fascinating to observe the behaviour, manners and social attitudes of the time - something that modern `period' dramas never seem to capture convincingly.

Asquith's direction is perfectly adequate and incorporates many of the influences he picked up along his privileged way - notably, techniques borrowed from German and Russian cinema. The love-triangle (or rectangle) story chugs along with both humorous and dramatic moments, there are one or two good set pieces and the final chase at Lots Road power station ticks all the boxes.

The extras are pretty good too - mostly archive footage of undergroundy things

All in all, recommended - and a rewarding and worthy complement to the contemporary Hitchcocks. I'm still not convinced about blu-ray though.
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on 26 July 2013
I saw this film at the BFI earlier this year and was delighted when it was issued on DVD. It's a lovely film that shows that you do not need endless dialogue to tell a story. The real joy of the film are the sights and fashions of 1920's London,
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on 9 July 2013
Ok, so the story isn't "War and Peace" , but wow, this is a fantastic capture of
how life was then. I am a major fan of the underground and have read many books
on same (sigh ...) but what really caught my attention here - apart from the underground scenes (sigh again....)-
is how fluid the film was ; the usual annoyance (for me at any rate) is the continual nuisance of dialogue
screens. Here the story can continue with little or no assistance from same!
Probably the best silent film I have ever seen ( and no I am not supported by a certain lager!)
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on 17 July 2013
I attended a screening of this film at the Barbican a couple of years back and really enjoyed the evening with a live orchestra providing the soundtrack. It is great to have a copy of the film to rewatch and wnjoy the experience again. A real special film for transport buffs and social historians alike.
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‘The “Underground” of the Great Metropolis of the British Empire, with its teeming multitudes of ‘all sorts and conditions of men,’ contributes its share of light and shade, romance and tragedy and all those things that go to make up what we call ‘life.’ So in the “Underground” is set our story of ordinary work-a-day people whose names are just Nell, Bill, Kate and Bert.’

He may have become better known for his adaptations of stage plays and ended his career making glossy pictures about glamorous people as befits the son of a distinguished Prime Minister, but Anthony Asquith’s early work was considerably more down to Earth, or rather distinctly Underground, his terrific 1928 silent film (his first directorial credit) dealing with a beautiful observed romantic triangle between three working class people whose paths cross on the London Underground system. Beginning as an observational comedy filled with all the behavioural traits that Londoners still slavishly adhere to on the Tube to this day, for much of the film it’s a traditional tale of romantic rivalry, with Cyril McLaglen’s power worker setting his cap at shopgirl Elissa Landi but merely annoying her with his boorish bravado on the train and finding himself out of the running when she meets cute with Brian Aherne’s porter on the escalator. Nothing especially novel or exciting happens, with the emphasis on the everyday, but it’s all so hugely enjoyable and good natured that it’s a real surprise when things take a much darker turn as McLaglen (yes, Victor’s brother) enlists his still devoted ex Norah Baring to break up the lovers, with disastrous results…

Despite seeming a tricky proposition to pull off, the shift in tone and genre is executed so well that it never feels jarring but rather a natural consequence of events: it’s a mundane, petty enough revenge to convince even as its consequences spiral out of control. That’s in no small part because Asquith never patronises his characters or stereotypes them because of their background – indeed, they and their world are so convincing you’d never guess the lifelong socialist was brought up in such a rarefied social circle (seen in interview footage Asquith almost sounded like a parody of the awfully, awfully nice awfully, awfully posh). He has a great eye for faces (a couple of which in the pub scene could pass for Alfie Bass and Victoria Wood’s grandparents) and places and his direction has all has the energy of a young man’s film, whether the camera is frantically following a dropped parcel as it falls down the escalator or finding moments of visual grandeur in the everyday (there’s a particularly magnificent establishing shot of the pub interior in the darts scene).

More than that, the film is constantly alive. Asquith’s sound films would become increasingly performance and dialogue-led, earning him a somewhat undeserved reputation as a staid, establishment filmmaker, but his silent work is very different – so different that you’d be forgiven for assuming the young tyro behind the camera was a completely different person. He not only knows just how to move a camera (and parts of the film really move) but more importantly when to move it depending on whether a scene needs a burst of energy or an emotional revelation. And it’s very emotional filmmaking at times: when Baring’s mind finally snaps completely outside the power station, the camera breaks loose with her as she loses herself, while the final extended chase sequence is one of the best action scenes in silent cinema.

All in all it’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking and a fantastic film: the two don’t always go together, but they genuinely do here.

Long only available in a badly water damaged print, the BFI’s Blu-ray/DVD combo release is an excellent transfer taken from two different sources that looks strikingly good and befits from an excellent score by Neil Brand (there’s the option of an alternate, more modern score by Chris Watson’s, but Brand’s is the more effectively appropriate). A good selection of extras includes a brief newsreel clip of the young Asquith watching early planes with his father and a selection of shorts and newsreels about the Underground system (most of the latter only included on the DVD version), a featurette on the restoration and a booklet. Very highly recommended.
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on 8 September 2014
Well it's '20's with all the sentiments and conventions of the time. However we loved it for all the nice shots of the underground of the day and an insight into the management and conditions of people working there. I found it quite a nice film.
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on 4 September 2013
I first heard about this movie nearly 20 years ago in the Cinema Europe documentary and was thrilled that it's finally out on DVD. Underground definitely lives up to the hype! Every second of this movie was perfect. Highly recommended!
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