When even a scaled down loco lets off steam the result is highly kinetic… multiply that by a factor of twenty and I can imagine the impact of a real locomotive and can understand why the producers of The Wrecker wanted to crash an actual engine rather than use a model: they wanted to show the full force and to scare an audience of regular passengers with the vision of a spectacular disaster.
|An unnaturally-quiet Waterloo...|
There was in fact only one staged crash in the film but it was used to represent three attacks. Twenty two cameras were positioned around the crash site and a truck laden down with concrete was set in the train’s path along with sufficient measures to ensure the train headed off the rails and didn’t just carry on – a runaway train with no Denzil Washington to stop it…
The effort was more than worth it, especially in the second viewing of the crash and after the coaches were set on fire and the actors were able to scramble over the safer sections. The scene was shot on a Saturday and, amazingly, the line was re-open for business by Monday (match that Network Rail!).
The film was an Anglo-German production, directed by an experienced Hungarian Géza von Bolváry. It was based on the successful play by Arnold Ridley (yes, writer of The Ghost Train and much later the man who was Private Godfrey) and Bernard Merivale but – from its timing – appears to be a truncated version oftheir story. The narrative would suggest as much as the plot is stripped down to the bare essentials – did they assume the audience knew the story that well? Surely not in Germany?
|Joseph Striker, Benita Hume and Winter Hall|
The railway shots are splendid, not just of the crash but of the day-to-day routine of track, station and locomotion. There are some superb shots achieved through placing a camera on a platform to the side of one locomotive – brave camera work! – and then again when the camera moves seamlessly from an exterior shot of moving train carriages to the inside of the carriage – never seen that before!
|A stunning shot: the camera pans from outside the train to the party in the carriage...|
|Carlyle Blackwell - boo!|
There’s also a good turn from Pauline Johnson as triple agent Beryl Matchley without whom the Wrecker might never get caught in spite of massively compelling circumstantial evidence!
|Joseph Striker - hurrah!|
|Harker and Thompson - ha!|
|Benita Hulme - cor!|
The DVD is available from Strike Force Entertainment who normally specialise in travel heritage programmes and which explains the main market for this film. But, whether you just like steam trains or cutting-edge late silent cinematography, the film is very rewarding.
You can buy the DVD from Cherry Red Records -SFE's distribution partners - and it comes with a nifty set of extras including an abridged home movie version as well as a fascinating featurette in which Mr Brand discusses the score. Our Duncan would have loved it!
|A SECR F1 Class locomotive No. A148 (I think?)|