Dir: Roman Polanski
Starring: Nastassia Kinski and Peter Firth
A strong-willed young peasant girl attracts the affection of two men
This epic drama, based on Thomas Hardy’s hugely depressing 1891 novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, features several railway scenes towards the end that were filmed on the Bluebell Railway, including at Horsted Keynes station. The train is hauled by ex-SECR H Class 0-4-4T No.263 and the station masqueraded as ‘Sandbourne’, though the signage telling us so is not seen in the completed scene. When the location team came to look around the railway they wanted to use the Metropolitan rake of coaches for the train. However, it was under restoration at the time in the carriage shed so Renn Productions offered to fund the rest of the work so it could be used. The railway duly took them up on the offer! The film premiered in France in 1979 at a length of 186 minutes and the following year premiered in the US at a re-edited length of 170 minutes. Later overseas releases of the film ran to as little as 136 minutes.