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The Titfield Thunderbolt(1953)
When British Railways announce the closure of the Titfield to Mallingford branch line, a group of local village residents make a bid to run it themselves, backed by a monied member of the community who is attracted by the complete lack of licensing hours on trains. Unfortunately this puts them into direct competition with the local bus company.
For more about The Titfield Thunderbolt and the The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray release, see the The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 29, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Charles Crichton
Writer: T. E. B. Clarke
Starring: Stanley Holloway, George Relph, Naunton Wayne, John Gregson (I), Godfrey Tearle, Hugh Griffith
» See full cast & crew
The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 29, 2012
Charles Crichton's "The Titfield Thunderbolt" (1953) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; restoration comparison; stills gallery; locations featurette; audio interview with cinematographer Douglas Slocombe; and more. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
This film could have been made only in England. It is about a group of people from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere who unite to save their beloved train after they are told that British Rail no longer needs their line station. It is also about men seriously in love with their booze.
The village is Titfield, a picturesque place not too far away from Mallingford. Each morning, its residents take the local train and go to Mallingford where they do what they have to do. Then in the afternoon they come back home and relax. Life around these parts is slow and quiet, always drama-free.
British Rail's announcement, however, gets everyone up in arms. Led by the Reverend Welch (George Relph, The Final Test), the locals offer to buy and run the railways themselves. The money is provided by the wealthy alcoholic Walter Valentine (Stanley Holloway, The Lavender Hill Mob), who is promised that everyone's favorite train will have a loaded early-morning bar.
After the Ministry of Transport is convinced that Titfielders aren't joking, the Reverend Welch and his men are granted a trial period during which they have to prove that they are indeed capable of operating their train. At the end of the trial period, an inspector from London would inform them whether the government is satisfied with their performance.
But in the days that follow a local businessman who has purchased a brand new bus and his associate repeatedly clash with the Reverend Welch and his men as they try to get everyone to use their service when traveling to Mallingford. The majority of Titfielders side with the Reverend Welch, but the competitors prove surprisingly resilient.
Based on a script by T.E.B. Clarke (The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico), Charles Crichton's The Titfield Thudnerbolt is an enormously charming and irresistibly hilarious film that is impossible not to like. Sequence after sequence, it delivers everything one would expect from an Ealing comedy.
There are all sorts of different characters in the film that are very entertaining. Some have a limited amount of time in front of the camera, but quickly manage to impress. For example, there is an elderly lady who agrees to sell the train tickets to Titfielders who is astonishingly fast for her age. Her enthusiasm for the train is also quite overwhelming. Then there is the perpetually inebriated Walter Valentine, who is always the first one to back the craziest ideas Ttifielders come up with while 'competing'. A very strange bishop (Godfrey Tearle) also emerges halfway through the film and offers some extremely valuable support.
The dialog is sharp and rather surprisingly witty. There are some obvious political jabs as well, though none of them disturb the film's excellent rhythm. If anything, they make it clearer that its creators were very much aware of the real dilemmas many rural towns across England were facing (privatization and urbanization are the two key themes) as changes were being forced on them by the government.
The Titfield Thunderbolt, Ealing's first color film, was photographed by Douglas Slocombe, who is probably best known for his fabulous work on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The film's soundtrack was composed by the legendary French composer Georges Auric (Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, Max Ophuls' Lola Montes).
The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Charles Crichton's The Titfield Thunderbolt arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal.
The restoration of The Titfield Thunderbolt was carried at Pinewood Studios. There, StudioCanal worked with a 3-strip dupe negative (the best available element for this film) and produced a new 2K scan, which was then used as a foundation for the new high-definition transfer this Blu-ray release uses. The color correction was done by award winning grader Vincent Narduzo (also responsible for the grading of the remastered Black Narcissus).
Excluding a few minor halo-like effects caused by sporadic shrinkage that could not be fully addressed during the restoration process (see screencapture #8), Ealing Studios' first color film looks quite wonderful on Blu-ray. The daylight sequences boast very good detail and clarity. Close-ups in particular look appropriately thick and lush, never suffering from serious color fluttering (see screencapture #4). The nighttime sequences also impress with pleasing crispness. Generally speaking, the variety of greens, blues, yellows, browns, and blacks remain stable throughout the entire film. There is no edge flicker either. Furthermore, there are no traces of problematic degraining or sharpening corrections. Large cuts, damage marks, warps, or stains are also nowhere to be seen. All of this allows the film to breathe and frankly look as organic as possible on Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, StudioCanal have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Generally speaking, the dialog is crisp and stable. Heavy background hiss never overwhelms it and there are no wild dynamic fluctuations. There are no distortions and audio dropouts either. Understandably, the range of nuanced dynamics is quite limited, but a few of the collisions are still quite aggressive.
The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Crichton's The Titfield Thunderbolt, Ealing Studios' first Technicolor film. It is very simple but irresistibly charming and very, very British comedy that looks beautiful on Blu-ray. Kudos to StudioCanal for restoring these wonderful films and allowing an entirely new generation of viewers to fall in love with them. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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The Titfield Thunderbolt Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Titfield Thunderbolt: 60th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray - November 21, 2012
StudioCanal have announced that they will bring to Blu-ray Charles Crichton's classic comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), starring Stanley Holloway, George Relph and Naunton Wayne. The release will be available for purchase on January 14th.
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