Dir: Don Sharp
Starring: Robert Powell and Karen Dotrice
A further remake of the famous Buchan thriller
This film is generally regarded as the closest to the book, even sharing its full title and not the number 39 instead. It is also set during the same time as the novel was, pre-Great War, but it still bears little resemblance to Buchan’s original story. The railway scenes are also quite different as it was clearly no longer possible to use the Forth Bridge so Rank used the Victoria Bridge on the Severn Valley Railway instead. As elegant as it is, it’s not quite the real thing. None the less, despite the obvious inaccuracies regarding the railway journey the scenes in the film are actually pretty good, and it has the most in the way of railway footage of the three listed here. Robert Powell boards a train in London at what is supposed to be St Pancras station, but what is in fact a heavily dressed up Marylebone. The departing train though was filmed on the Severn Valley Railway and as Powell walks down the corridor GWR coaches are visible through the window. All other railway scenes used the preserved line, and there are some really nice run-bys. The train itself used BR Ivatt Class 2MT 2-6-0 No.46443, painted all-over black and numbered 644, hauling five coaches of the line’s LMS maroon running rake with ‘MIDLAND’ legends on their sides and mock BR-style ‘First Class’ totem stickers in some of the windows (Open third No.27218, ‘Porthole’ design Corridor Composite No.24617, and ‘Porthole’ design Brake Third Corridor No.26986 are all identifiable). Shots of the train en route include several passing through the countryside and one of it crossing the five-arch Oldbury Viaduct near Bridgnorth. The main station scene on the line was filmed at Highley and there are also interesting shots of a fast run through both Arley and Bewdley stations, fast runs are rare on preserved lines. The film is set in 1914 and the train is highly anachronistic. The loco was built at Crewe in 1950 and the earliest coaches of the rake were not built until 1945! Lastly, Robert Powell’s return journey from Scotland uses a stock shot of a night express hauled by a rebuilt ‘Royal Scot’ Class 4-6-0 and a brief glimpse of a drivers-eye view on the approach to Hadley Wood Tunnel at dusk. The shot of the ‘Royal Scot’ is that which has also appeared in The Set Up, Heavens Above! and From Russia with Love (all 1963), Night Train to Paris (1964), and Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), whilst a shot of the Ivatt passing through Arley reappears in the 1980 movie The Elephant Man, only in black and white. The drivers-eye view on the approach to the tunnel, meanwhile, could have been a shot from the 1971 film Get Carter.