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I was going to write about Danger Lights (1931), a rarely aired action/romance movie about trains and their people, on as part of Louis Wolheim day tomorrow.  You get to see Robert Armstrong pre-Kong, a very young Jean Arthur, with silent movie-era eyebrows, and best of all, some stunning train photography.  Really, the best I've ever seen in movies.  You have to sit through a lot of conventional love triangle machinations, but it's worth it.  There are shots of round houses, cranes, repair shops, stuff you almost never see anywhere else.  For the finale, there's a cross country race against time to save Mr. Wolheim's life that end's with a dash through 1930s Chicago.  Thrilling.

 

But I thought others would like to make comments on trains in other movies that they get jazzed about.  For me, it's hard to take a bad picture of a train, just based on its linear make-up.  But by the same token, it's also hard to get an exceptional picture of one.  One thing that has always puzzled me is that everything that goes along with trains, the railroad yards, with acres of criss-crossing tracks, the roundhouses, all the paraphernalia around them are almost completely ignored by directors.  Trains almost exclusively show up in movies as the background for traveling people.  There was an incredible wealth of imagery that was overlooked.  And now the opportunity is lost.  That's what makes Danger Lights so amazing.  The perspectives, the lighting, everything captures not only the look of trains, but their impossible size and heaviness.  Even through the poor quality of the prints of the movie, the sense of the sound and the massiveness of the engines and cars is transmitted.  George B. Seitz, the director is not one I would immediately expect to capture such images.  I guess you could say he was best known for his work on the Andy Hardy movies.  And maybe he wasn't.  The train shots could all have been done by second unit crews and directors.  My money is on the cinematographer Karl Struss, who has an impressive resume:  Ben Hur (1925), Sunrise (1927), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Island of Lost Souls (1932), and The Story of Temple Drake (1933).  The scenes away from the trains, where the love story is played out lack the same vitality.

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I really don't know much about specific trains, but the French film La Bête Humaine (1938) with Jean Gabin shows the operation of the trains in great detail as well as several amazing train yard shots.

 

Another obvious one is The Train (1964) with Burt Lancaster.

 

Both of these films gave me the impression that the filmmakers really did their homework on the operation and maintenance of trains and both had wonderful cinematography as well.

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Thanks for all the links!  It'll take a while to digest them.  In the meantime, here's a few pics from Danger Lights.  And I want to draw attention again to the final sequence of the race to Chicago to get Dan Thorn to life-saving surgery. You don't often see stuff like that.  Magnificent.  The pics don't do justice to the movie.  They lack the motion and the sound.

 

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Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention THE GENERAL(1926). And if you want to get into ALL trains, I guess we could also add

 

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123(1974)

 

 

Sepiatone

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I am not a train fanatic but my favourite train movie is "Brief Encounters".  David Lean's filming of the train going through the station is fantastic and I just love the sensation everytime I see the movie.  Train stations are pure romance to me.  Forget about airlines, trains are the way to go.

 

Can't forget "Reds" there were great train scenes as well...loved Soviet vistas.  I took the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, can't say there was much romance in that train but there was a "tea" lady in a uniform that made you think she would arrest you any minute for any infraction, stern and suspicious looks as she passed through the car.  Train from London to Edinburgh is great as well if you don't take the fast train.  You can actually take your vehicle on the train with you from London to Scotland as well. 

 

Growing up in Jackson MI my dad would run his Saturday errands with me in tow and as a final reward we would visit the round house and I would get to see the engines move around to go back another way.  My brother and I would walk over the train bridge down the street from where we lived and experience the steam billowing up as the engines passed over.  Oh and don't forget the engineers, they always tooted the horn if you waved and the caboose guy always waved out the window as well.  Loved the caboose, always red with the guys looking out the windows at the top of the car. 

 

Sad to say...days long passed. 

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Tough Guys (1986)  Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Dana Carvey

Not that many train shots, except for at the end of the movie.  One of those forgotten comedy movies from the 1980s, presumably due to licensing issues.  It is about two old ex-cons, just released after 40 years in the clinker, who didn't acclimate into 1980s culture that well.  There is a scene at the end where they hijack the "Gold Coast Flyer" train, along with their parole officer (Dana Carvey), on its final journey.

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Growing up in Jackson MI my dad would run his Saturday errands with me in tow and as a final reward we would visit the round house and I would get to see the engines move around to go back another way. 

 

 

What a treat!

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So, what's this thread ultimately about?  Movies about trains?  Movies where all the action takes place on a train?  Or all that AND trains having significant scenes shot on them?

 

If the latter, could we include STRANGERS ON A TRAIN,  or DOUBLE INDEMNITY,  THE LADY VANISHES,, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR,,NORTH BY NORTHWEST....SOME LIKE IT HOT...or the more recent Steven Seagal action/thriller  UNDER SIEGE 2('95)?

 

 

Sepiatone

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Trains and Model railroading are two of my primary interests.  There are few, if any, movies about trains as such.  The movies use the train as a setting or feature to advance the story.  There are lots of documentaries about trains, railroading, passenger trains, etc.

 

There are a lot of great "train movies."  My favorite is Silver Streak (1976) not to be confused with 1934's The Silver Streak.  Both Narrow Margin (1990) and The Narrow Margin (1952) are also favorites of mine.  Breakheart Pass is a great one.

For me, at least about 50% of the movie has to take place on a train, in a train yard or in a station for it to be a train movie.

 

Several years ago, Kalmbach publishing published a "book" 100 Greatest Train Movies.  It's not bad, but some questionable choices in it.  Was written by a movie buff and not a train buff.  For example, he included a couple of movies where it begins with someone walking across a train yard for a few minutes.  Rest of movie has no trains at all.

 

You can google 100 best or greatest train movies and see a lot of information.

 

I did watch Danger lights and had seen it before.  Nice train scenes, but I actually found the movie kind of boring.  However, it is considered a classic among railroad buffs as it has so much about railroading and so many train shots in it.

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Some of my other favorites not mentioned are From Russia With Love, Murder on the Orient Express, Sleepers West,  and Under Siege 2: Dark Teritory.

 

If talking "shots," always been a sucker for movies with scenes on passenger trains such as The Falcon's Adventure and The Saint in Palms Springs.

 

John Farr's top ten of 100 Greatest mentioned in my previous post are (in order) The Train, North by Northwest, Twentieth Century, The Lady Vanishes, La Bete Humaine, High Noon, Brief Encounter, The General, Buth Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Interesting fact about Orient Express is that it is probably only one where the scenes were either filmed on an actual passenger car or on sets using same dimensions as real passenger cars.  Most movies used sets where the interiors of passengers cars were much larger than in reality.

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I think we all know what "train shots" in movies are about...

It's shorthand for, uh...that intimate thing that people do occasionally even when they don't have access to Viagra.

 

All those trains zooming in and out, in and out, in and out of tunnels and such. I mean, c'mon, like y'all thought it was really about riding the B&O to Wisconsin to visit your grandparents. Pulleeeeze!
 

Alfred Hitchcock seems to be the master of using Lionel train sets in place of raunchy shots with his stars in flagrante delicto to save money, time and embarrassment for people like Eva Marie Saint in his movies.

 

No Saint should have to be shown sans proper clothing on film!

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So, what's this thread ultimately about?  Movies about trains?  Movies where all the action takes place on a train?  Or all that AND trains having significant scenes shot on them?

 

If the latter, could we include STRANGERS ON A TRAIN,  or DOUBLE INDEMNITY,  THE LADY VANISHES,, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR,,NORTH BY NORTHWEST....SOME LIKE IT HOT...or the more recent Steven Seagal action/thriller  UNDER SIEGE 2('95)?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Naturally, I'm interested in seeing wherever it goes.  But what prompted me to start the thread was the stunning photography of the trains in Danger Lights (1930),  Something I know of almost nowhere else.  But maybe someone does.

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I did watch Danger lights and had seen it before.  Nice train scenes, but I actually found the movie kind of boring.  However, it is considered a classic among railroad buffs as it has so much about railroading and so many train shots in it.

 

 

Yes, as I said in my OP, the story is a run/mill romantic triangle.  But what makes it thrilling is the train shots.  They're fantastic.

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I think we all know what "train shots" in movies are about...

 

It's shorthand for, uh...that intimate thing that people do occasionally even when they don't have access to Viagra.

 

All those trains zooming in and out, in and out, in and out of tunnels and such. I mean, c'mon, like y'all thought it was really about riding the B&O to Wisconsin to visit your grandparents. Pulleeeeze!

 

Alfred Hitchcock seems to be the master of using Lionel train sets in place of raunchy shots with his stars in flagrante delicto to save money, time and embarrassment for people like Eva Marie Saint in his movies.

 

No Saint should have to be shown sans proper clothing on film!

:D

Sure.  GEORGE CARLIN once brought up the "train in a tunnel" thing in a routine of his about that sort of thing.  saying, "You don't have to be FELLINI to figure THAT one out!"  ;)

 

In other movies I've seen gushing OIL DERRICKS and ROCKET LIFT-OFFS used for the same effect.

 

I too, brought it to light when watching NBNW  with friends about 25 years ago or so.  Grant pulling Eva up to the train compartment's "pull down" bed and then quickly cutting to the "train in the tunnel" shot, and a friend quipping:  "HOW did they KNOW Cary Grant that well?  Maybe, to be more accurate, they should have used a TROLLEY CAR!"  :D

 

 

Sepiatone

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:D

Sure.  GEORGE CARLIN once brought up the "train in a tunnel" thing in a routine of his about that sort of thing.  saying, "You don't have to be FELLINI to figure THAT one out!"  ;)

 

In other movies I've seen gushing OIL DERRICKS and ROCKET LIFT-OFFS used for the same effect.

 

I too, brought it to light when watching NBNW  with friends about 25 years ago or so.  Grant pulling Eva up to the train compartment's "pull down" bed and then quickly cutting to the "train in the tunnel" shot, and a friend quipping:  "HOW did they KNOW Cary Grant that well?  Maybe, to be more accurate, they should have used a TROLLEY CAR!"  :D

 

 

Sepiatone

As many times as I have watched North By Northwest, I never realized the symbolism of the train entering the tunnel in the final scene until I read it here not that long ago.  I just thought it was a train going into a tunnel and the movie ends.

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