Dir: George Pollock
Starring: Margaret Rutherford and Arthur Kennedy
Whilst traveling by rail, Miss Marple witnesses the strangling of a young woman in the carriage of an overtaking train
This murder mystery film was based on the novel 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie. MGM made three sequels, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul and Murder Ahoy!, all with Rutherford starring as Christie’s famed amateur sleuth, though this first film was the only one to feature any railway material. This is quite understandable given the story, and although most footage is made up of standard stock shots there is one, real rarity. The opening scenes were filmed at London Paddington with general shots of the platforms and a 9400-series 0-6-0PT, a large 2-6-2T, and a Class 117 DMU are visible. Most of the coaching stock appears to be ‘blood & custard’ and maroon liveried BR Mk1’s. There then follows a close up of 9400 Class 0-6-0PT No.9410 at the buffer stops before Margaret Rutherford gets on the train. After this there is a change of station as there follows a number of stock shots that were originally filmed for the 1948 movie Train of Events (qv) of trains leaving London Euston. One is just a ground level shot of the wheels and motion of what appears to be an ex-LMS ‘Duchess’ Class 8P 4-6-2 along with coach bogies, but the other shots show an ex-LMS Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 and a ‘Jubilee’ Class 6P 4-6-0. There is then a shot of another ‘Jubilee’ with an express, this time on Bushey troughs, before the important scene where Miss Marple witnesses the murder. This starts off with a good shot on the West Coast Main Line of a clean BR Standard Class 4MT 2-6-4T on a local passenger being overtaken by an express that may be hauled by another ‘Jubilee’, though as it passes behind it is largely obscured. Curiously, this overtaking train is then depicted by a mixture of studio filming of a carriage interior set with back projection footage shown through Miss Marple’s carriage ‘window’. The loco of the overtaking train has become ex-GWR 2251 Class 0-6-0 No. 2221 but note that the loco passes in reverse as identified through the backwards reading cabside numberplate! There is then another shot of an LMS Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 on an express, possibly on the Midland Main Line. Other railway shots appear throughout the film which were largely shot back on the Western Region near Taplow on the GWML. What looks to be a ‘King’ Class 4-6-0 passes in close up on an embankment as Miss Marple searches the line for clues, and then a pair of three-car Class 117 DMUs and a ‘Castle’ Class 4-6-0 pass over a bridge as she arrives at Ackenthorpe Hall, which adjoins the railway line, though in this instance the shots are largely obscured. Although Ackenthorpe Hall was really Radnor Hall near Elstree, the entrance gates and road bridge under the railway used Amerden Lane, Taplow. There is then a long shot of a ‘King’ Class 4-6-0 passing as Miss Marple pretends to play golf near a railway embankment followed by a real rarity in the form of North British-built D600-series ‘Warship’ No. D603 Conquest passing on another express. This is in fact the best shot in the whole film and it is a true gem as it is so far the only known appearance of one of these short-lived diesel-hydraulic locomotives in a feature film. Only five were ever built and all were withdrawn in 1967. In an age where steam was fast declining it seems odd that the camera crew should film a diesel-hauled express. It would be nice to think that they realised its significance and though this is unlikely it still seems odd that it was retained when a shot of yet another ‘King’ would have sufficed. We can be thankful that it was. There is then one final shot at the very end of a ‘Castle’ Class 4-6-0.