When Tight Little Island set audiences chuckling here and abroad, British film producer sealized that the antics of provincial communities were an untapped reservoir of humor. The latest in the stream of hinterland hilarity, Titfield Thunderbolt, should send the cinema men back into the drawing room. For although the film has a relatively well-known cast and Technicolor scenery resembling British Railways posters, it has very few funny lines and its slapstick is unimaginative.
Like Tight Little Island, Titfield Thunderbolt catches the efforts of a small village trying to thwart the stuffiness of legal procedure. Faced with losing their venerated by uneconomical railroad service, the population decides to buy the line and operate it themselves. Since the train provides a convivial place to drink before the doors to the town pub officially swing, an affluent lush happily furnishes the money for the project. Intrigue follows in the form of nefarious busline operators and a pompous London transportation official. However, a sentimental cleric, who gets the town behind him by pointing out the local motive for having the railroad, provides sufficient opposition.
The humor of this comedy depends much more on the acting than on the plot. To actor and audience the plot is absurd, but if the enthusiasm of the performers were credible, the drollery of the whole production would succeed. Director Charles Chrishten has spread looks of Zeal over the faces of his cast like make up. Unlike cosmetics, however, Chrichton's technique never comes off. One never believes that the people of Titfield are sincerely ecstatic when talking about their two car Zephyr. And worse, one hardly cares. The most amusing lines and a few way pokes at British socialism and labor union policy.
Attempting to hastle according to the stage directions, Stanley Holloway leads the cast as the liquor-loveing philanthropist. He is effective in several of the early scenes, but finally succumbs to the thinness of the story. Hugh Griffith playing the Thunderbolt's fireman delivers the most convincing performances. Unfortunately, only a few laughs depend upon his part.
The companion feature, The Passionate Sentry, should perhaps have top-billing on the program. Though not filmed in sumptuous color, the picture has Valerie Hobson and Peggy, Cummins to keep all eyes on the screen. An improbable story about a quadrangular love affair set in St. James' palace, it has some of the shies affair set in St. James' palace, it has some of the sophistication and wit typical of good English comedy. George Colt and Niger Patrick held up the male end of the cast.