GB 1938 1hr 21mins Dir: Reginald Denham Starring: Jack Hulbert and Genevieve Tobin
A police inspector trails the female leader of a bullion gang
Based on the 1917 Edgar Wallace novel of the same name, this unfairly neglected thriller features some excellent railway footage in its final half-hour as the gang steal the train for its gold bullion van. The scene in which the gold is offloaded from a ship at ‘Seahampton Docks’ was filmed at Brentford Docks at night and a GWR Special Directors Saloon coach and four-wheeled van can be seen. The railway chase sequences were filmed on the Limpley Stoke-Camerton branch and the Westbury-Bath line, locations that have been used in a number of other films. The scene with the train smashing through the level crossing was filmed at Freshford Halt, though the crossing itself was a mock-up, and the scene where Jack Hulbert brings the train to a stand at a level crossing, this time to halt the gangs progress, used the real level crossing close to Camerton station. The location where the steam locomotive crashes through wooden shed doors was filmed at a closed colliery in the Somerset coalfield. The star of all these scenes (as well as the pre-credit sequence) was GWR 4300 Class 2-6-0 No.4364 (with its ‘Great Western’ tender lettering painted out) but a couple of real rarities crop up in the shots of the police swarming out of a train at Limpley Stoke station. The train apparently pulls in behind a GWR ‘Bulldog’ Class 4-4-0, a rare beast indeed for a feature film, but an even rarer loco appears in the continuity error which follows. As the police head down the platform ramp evidence that the scenes were filmed on separate nights is revealed by the appearance of a 3000 Class 2-8-0 at the head of the train! Built by the Railway Operating Division (ROD) of the Royal Engineers for use in the First World War and based on the Great Central Railway’s Robinson designed 8K Class 2-8-0s, 100 RODs were purchased in two separate batches by the Great Western Railway and less than half (45) survived to enter BR ownership in 1948. Pictures of these locos in use on the Great Western are rather sparse so an appearance of one in this film is quite exceptional. Despite logic taking a back seat in what is ultimately quite a flimsy story, Tobin is wickedly delightful as ‘Kate’, and Jack Hulbert gives an agreeable performance in this film which he also helped write and proves again that he could cope just as well without Cicely Courtneidge by his side. Like so many films from the period though it really is the trains that make it all worthwhile, with the chase, capture and escape all perfectly executed.