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Great steam engine movies

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When we thought about writing a quick post about great films featuring steam trains, we didn’t necessarily stop too think how intertwined cinema and steam locomotion are!

In historical terms the development of Steam locomotion doesn’t precede the invention of cinema by that long and, being the preeminent form of transport at the time, trains appeared in early cinema all the time!

So here’s a very short chronological list of some of the most influential of steam train movies:

Arrival Of A Train At La Ciotat Station (1895)

This short 50 second film by the Lumière brothers is famed for the terrified reaction it elicited from the contemporary audience who, having never experienced moving images on a screen, thought they were about to get run over! (Although this story maybe somewhat exaggerated or conflated!)

What’s even more amazing about this film is that Louis Lumière actually created and exhibited a 3D version of the film using a stereoscopic camera in 1935 (3D didn’t take off commercially that time - but they keep trying!).

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Written, produced, and directed by Edwin S. Porter, a former Edison Studios cameraman, The Great Train Robbery only ran for 12 minutes (an epic length at the time) but is credited with the earliest use of several film-making techniques and considered a milestone movie.

Edwin Porter usedcomposite editing,on-location shooting, frequent camera movement and one of the earliest uses ofcross cutting (where two scenes are shown simultaneously in different locations) to make the film as exciting as possible.

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Fast forwarding to the era of sound,The Lady Vanishes is one of the most enjoyable movies to use the confines of a train journey for dramatic effect and is Alfred Hitchcocks last British made film until the 1970’s.

The Lady Vanishes is a brilliantly entertaining thriller/comedy/romance which has been ranked by the British Film Institute as the35th best British film of the 20th century  (This is by far my favourite film on the list!)

The Train (1964)

Maybe less well known than the others but certainly a great movie for real train enthusiasts is the Burt Lancaster WW2 movieThe Train, where his character delays a train transporting works of Art stolen by Nazis just before liberation.

Lancaster sacked the movie’s first director, Arthur Penn, because he wanted more action and emphasis on he mechanics of the train itself (great news for Steam Buffs!).

Is there anything we should’ve mentioned?

Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on our list of great Steam train movies?

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By Alastair Baker at 24 Aug 2018, 00:00 AM