Original release: 1929
Running time: 50 minutes
Director: Castleton Knight
Writers: Victor Kendall, store Garnett Weston, Freeman Crofts
Cast: Moore Marriott, Pauline Johnson, Ray Milland, Alec Hurley
Films about trains might not sound all that appealing, yet they’ve played a big part in some very interesting stories over the years, for example Murder On The Orient Express (1974), based on the Agatha Christie novel, the original Taking Of Pelham 123 (1973) and even a Bollywood disaster film with The Burning Train (1980).
Recent years however have not offered that many great train stories, perhaps with the exception of The Polar Express (2004), so it’s with that we jump back in time to The Flying Scotsman to see how death defying stunts and new technology were combined to create a film which fuels impassioned discussions even today.
It’s about an elderly driver, Bob (Moore Marriott) who’s set to retire from working on the famous locomotive LNER Class A3 4472, the Flying Scotsman, but before he can do so, a disgruntled employee, Crow (Alec Hurley), returns to take revenge on him. Bob had earlier reported him for drinking on the job and as a result, Crow was sacked.
With the train on its way to Edinburgh from London, Bob and Crow’s new replacement, Jim (Ray Milland), must find a way to stop the Flying Scotsman from heading toward a disaster which Crow is determined to cause.
Pauline Johnson plays Joan, Bob’s daughter who just happens to be on the train and has taking a liking to Jim, much to her father’s disdain. Filmed while in motion, there’s a moment where we see Joan walking along the outside edge of the carriage wearing high heeled shoes. This probably thrilled and terrified audiences as much as it did when they saw a train pulling in to the station in the Lumière Brothers film L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1896).
The Flying Scotsman starts off as a silent movie with speech captions to show dialogue placement but halfway through audiences hear recorded voices. It’s at first a jarring experience if you haven’t seen the film before.
There’s been a lot of debate as to whether or not The Flying Scotsman predates Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929) as the first full length British talkie, but the BFI film database notes that the soundtrack was added in March 1930.
First or second, it doesn’t really matter because The Flying Scotsman remains a great piece of early cinema and contains all of the elements that are still used today to make movies that thrill audiences.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
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