Dir: Terry Jones
Starring: Eric Idle and Steve Coogan
Weasel property developers threaten the homes of Mole and Toad
This enjoyable and light-hearted children’s movie is only a loose adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 classic novel of the same name, and it received some unjustified criticism as a result. It includes a spectacular railway sequence filmed on the Bluebell Railway, effectively standing in as the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. Toad has escaped from prison with the police in pursuit and he heads for the railway station. Seeing the moving, steaming, monstrous engine, he gets all worked up and boards the footplate as it arrives. He is forced to take the controls after losing the crew with the police shooting from the carriages behind. The highly complex scenes, with special equipment attached to the loco, tender and carriages to allow the film crew and actors room to move around, used ex-SECR C Class 0-6-0 No.592 and the vintage train rake from the Kent & East Sussex Railway. Horsted Keynes is the station where Toad and his friends board the train and much of the filming, where Toad drives the train up to 120mph (!), takes place between Monteswood Lane bridge and Waterworks bridge. The driver is dismounted from his stead by a post office net erected adjacent to the disused Ketches Halt, whilst Sharpthorne Tunnel (731 yards) also appears in one scene. The final dramatic climax where the by now uncoupled engine leaves the rails used a very realistic wood and fibreglass replica of 592’s tender placed next to the line in the trees as well as a lot of speeded-up trick photography. All in all, this is an enjoyable little romp.