1958 26mins Dir: Ken Russell Starring: Mika van Bloemen and Helen Ulman
A young girl searches London for some angel wings to accompany her in a school play
This charming short was produced by the BFI Experimental Film Fund and was the second ever film to be directed by a young maverick director called Ken Russell. It is silent, with just a musical score and the occasional narration to accompany proceedings. It features some good shots filmed at South Kensington Underground station with O and P stock trains appearing on Circle Line services, and one of the exits to Notting Hill Gate Underground also features, but the film is most notable for the excellent scenes that were shot within the confines of the disused Crystal Palace High Level station, closed four years prior to filming and near derelict by this time.
This is the entrance to South Kensington Underground station
These meanwhile are the stairs down to platforms 2 and 3 at South Kensington
Looking across the platforms at South Kensington. The four platform layout was reduced to three in 1967 and then two in 1969.
This low angle shot facing east along platform 2 at South Kensington shows trains of O and P stock passing on Circle Line services
This is a temporary exit out of Notting Hill Gate Circle and District Line station. The entrance to the deep-level Central Line station can be seen across the road outside.
This is the main entrance concourse to the closed Crystal Palace High Level station. The platforms were downstairs to the right. The station was on a branch from Nunhead and was an outstanding example of Victorian architecture. Note the old posters still attached to the boards, four years after closure.
At the opposite end of the station to the shot above, a circus performer, played by Mika van Bloemen, stands on the passenger landing which was basically a footbridge at the station’s northern end.
Looking south beneath the trainshed of the derelict station. The track has been removed but the ballast remains and the wooden platforms are in surprisingly fine shape. Note the towers visible through the skeletal remains of the roof. The station had sixteen of these, four on each corner. The impressive station was designed by Edward Middleton Barry and was built on an excavated ridge below Crystal Palace Parade that required a tunnel and a high retaining wall to the north.
This is now looking to the north along the old platform 4. Note the northern footbridge landing with large sign still proclaiming ‘FOR WAY OUT OPPOSITE END OF STATION’. Note also the southern portal of Paxton Tunnel visible through the entrance arch.
This is looking south along the old platform 4 with two more turrets visible through the roof. The station was located on a very convenient site but it came too late to be of any real use as interest in the Palace was waning. Despite third rail electrification in 1926, passenger numbers remained low, and, as in the First, services were withdrawn as an economy measure during the Second World War. By this stage though the Palace had burned down, during 30th November 1936, and the station was living on borrowed time. It closed on 20th September 1954 and was demolished in 1961.
The little girl, played by Mercedes Quadros, stands on the overgrown track bed between the tunnel and the station, the northern facade of which still stands proud behind. To her left is the large retaining wall that held back the cutting from Crystal Palace Parade above. Mercedes Quadros was the daughter of an Argentinian diplomat and, according to Ken Russell, was ‘absolutely no trouble at all to work with’. She unfortunately fell down the steps of the Albert Memorial during filming and broke her right hand which, in most of the film, is turned away from the camera to hide the bandage which is visible here.
Mika van Bloemen stands in the southern portal of Paxton Tunnel. The bore was 439 yards in length and took the line to the next station at Upper Sydenham. The tunnel was invariably known as Paxton, but had appeared from time to time on maps with other names that included Crystal Palace, Rockhills, Sydenham or Upper Norwood.