Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom, 1953. Ealing Studios, Michael Balcon Productions. Screenplay by T.E.B. Clarke. Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. Produced by Michael Truman. Music by Georges Auric. Production Design by C.P. Norman. Film Editing by Seth Holt.
Delightful comedy from the halcyon days of Ealing’s reign over the British film industry. The route between Titfield and Mallingford is one that the village’s locals rely on to get to work or, in the case of the county squire (John Gregson), to take produce to market. When the nationalization of the railways becomes a decision to shut the line down, Gregson and George Relph as the local reverend convince a local fatcat (Stanley Holloway) to give them the money to purchase the line and run it themselves (convincing him by pointing out that he can have a bar on board that will serve him at any time of day). They are given a trial period from the Ministry of Transport to try out their enterprise before being given a licence to keep the train running, which should be easy except that villainous bus driver Ewan Roberts and his henchman Jack MacGowran do everything in their power to sabotage the operation in order to take over transport profits. It’s a battle of wills as well as generations, with situations that display ingenious community efforts to quickly fix dire situations that our heroes keep getting in because of the bad guys. The ultimate showdown has them raiding the local museum for supplies, because goodness knows that the England of old is always there to help when the younger generations need her; tradition and the ability to put the right heads together helped them win a war, and they were only a few years out from that victory when this bubbly, colourful charmer was made.