UNDERGROUND

GB
1928
1hr 24mins
Dir: Anthony Asquith
Starring: Brian Aherne and Elissa Landi

Two Underground workers fight for the attentions of the same girl

Although this film was not the first to feature the London Underground, that accolade probably went to the Hitchcock silent drama Downhill (qv) which came out the year before, this silent melodrama was the first to make extensive use of the system. The platform scenes were shot at Waterloo on the Bakerloo Line platforms where we are treated to extremely rare shots of 1920-built Watford Joint Tube Stock, built for the service to Watford along both the Bakerloo Line and the London and North Western Railway. As a result, the cars were owned jointly by both the Underground and the LNWR, and were painted in the latter company’s ‘plum and spilt milk’ livery. The lengthy scenes filmed onboard the carriages used a studio set, though this does seem to be interspersed with shots of passengers boarding and alighting real trains. Despite all this, the concourse, escalators and the booking hall that feature extensively used a different station entirely. The final chase sequence climaxes on the platforms again at Waterloo, with the fighting characters nearly getting rundown by a Watford bound train, formed again of Joint Stock. The chase started at the entrance to an as yet unknown tunnel somewhere on the District and went via the lifts at Covent Garden! The title of the film is displayed after the opening credits in the form of a very large ‘UNDERGROUND’ sign attached to the retaining wall of Putney Bridge station (see above). There are several out door scenes including some filmed at Lots Road Power Station but surprisingly no other railway related items feature in the film. This magnificent movie is now much respected by silent movie historians with regular showings at Silent Film Festivals where it is considered one of the very best of the genre yet it is sadly still largely overlooked. Some footage from this film reappears in Hitchcock’s 1931 movie Rich and Strange (qv).

This is the southbound Bakerloo Line platform at Waterloo. This driver’s eye view is replayed at the end of the movie.
‘I was on the Central Line, and you were on the Bakerloo’…. The train seen here at Waterloo is the aforementioned Joint Stock.
Cyril McLaglen and Elissa Landi meet at the foot of the escalators. A lot of action takes place in this station with tiling that does not match Waterloo at all. In fact, it looks more Piccadilly to me, or maybe Central. Unless of course Waterloo has been refurbished to the extent that all the old features were swept away, which is unlikely.
Passengers take to the escalators. There’s that tiling again.
And the escalators themselves feature distinctive uplighters. These are beginning to bother me. As we saw with Tube Tales there are several of these type around, but enough differences exist to aid identification. Then of course there is St. John’s Wood, which is in a class of its own, but that station did not open until 1939 thus ruling that one out!
And now we have reached the top. I would love to know where this is.
The climatic chase starts here. Cyril McLaglen is standing at the entrance to a tunnel somewhere on the Underground system. Though as yet unidentified, the width of the tunnel clearly tells us that this is somewhere on the District.
The old cage lifts at Covent Garden