2hrs 18mins
Dir: Ken Annakin
Starring: Stuart Whitman and Sarah Miles

An English press magnate offers £10,000 to the winner of the Daily Post air race from London to Paris

This brilliant all-star spectacular, the full title of which is as shown above, has a memorable comedy sequence in which Terry-Thomas lands his Avro Triplane IV on top of a moving French steam train, only for it to then be destroyed when the train enters a tunnel. The scene was filmed on the Bedford-Hitchin line which closed in 1964 and the train was formed of preserved Highland Railway 4F Class ‘Jones Goods’ 4-6-0 No.103 (with ‘NORD’ on its tender to represent a Chemin de Fer du Nord locomotive) and a rake of Caledonian Railway coaches. This amusing scene used a combination of back-projection and stunts, which involved flying a plane alongside whilst the mock-up of the real Avro aircraft was wrecked in the accident using a stunt double and some strategically placed cameras. The tunnel was the 882 yard long Old Warden Tunnel. Earlier in the film, the competitors head for the coast by road and ‘cross the railway line to Dover near Tonbridge’. Not quite, it is Compton level crossing on the line between Didcot and Newbury, which also closed in 1964.

This is Compton level crossing in Berkshire, located on the section of line between Didcot and Newbury which closed around the time of filming in 1964
Terry-Thomas flying in the studio with a train approaching him from behind as part of the back-projection. This is the cross-country line from Hitchin-Bedford, which also closed in 1964 around the time of filming.
This close up shot shows the train itself, a contemporary Caledonian Railway example playing the part of a French counterpart. The locomotive is Highland Railway 4F Class ‘Jones Goods’ 4-6-0 No.103, built in 1894 so old enough for the film. The livery is lined pea green, an attractive shade delightfully lined out in darker tones.
The Avro Triplane IV has become stuck between the carriages, the passengers of which can be seen inside completely unaware of the drama taking place above their heads
Look to the right of the stunt double as he walks along the carriage roof and you can make out Goldington Power Station, two miles east of Bedford. This was opened in 1955 despite the film being set in 1910! Still, as mentioned, the train is of the correct era.
The crew of the ‘Jones Goods’ keep a watchful eye on the road ahead
The look of horror on Terry-Thomas’s face as he sees the tunnel approach. The back projection seen here shows the approach to Old Warden tunnel, very close to the home of the Shuttleworth collection where many of the vulnerable aircraft used in the film were, and still are, based.
For you, Thomas, the race is over. The remains of the aircraft after it has passed through the tunnel completely out of gauge!!