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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 either read it here not that long ago.  I just thought it was a train going into a tunnel and the movie ends.

 

Maybe it would have helped picking up on the symbolism if Hitchcock had included a final shot in the film of the train emerging from the other end of the tunnel smoking a cigarette.

 

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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.

 

Well, I wouldn't feel too bad about this if I were you, Cid ol' boy.

 

Remember, even this guy HERE was famous for saying the following, dude...

 

 

Copy-of-c8040ac9113e866c55878b33530b4b42

 

;)

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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!

 

Okay since it hasn't been asked yet, is there anything to Dargo's exploding box car knocking two guys off their feet?

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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.

 

 

I just heard a train zoom by a few blocks away from where I live. I'm getting excited just thinking bout it.

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Okay since it hasn't been asked yet, is there anything to Dargo's exploding box car knocking two guys off their feet?

 

Well MCOH, just that this thread title kind'a reminded me of that scene in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, that's all.

 

I mean, it WAS a "train shot", now wasn't it?

 

Well, okay. Perhaps more a "shot of train blowin' up REAL GOOD", I suppose. ;) 

 

(...btw...the train used in that movie was the famous Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad which still runs to this day...I rode that sucker about three years ago now during Autumn, and had a great time while watching the scenic Colorado countryside, the beautiful winding Animas River and the changing of the Aspen leaves unfold before me)

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Here's a review I wrote about a year ago of a little known British suspense thriller set aboard a train. I'm posting it because I suspect that 99% of film buffs have never heard of this little gem.

 

Rome Express (1932).

 

What a pleasure it is when you discover a little film you never heard of which turns out to be a genuine treat. Rome Express clearly qualifies as such, a Gaumont British production which can be seen as a prototype for future thrillers than would be set entirely on trains. In particular it makes one think of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes which is not too surprising since both films have the same screenwriter, Sidney Gilliat (who would later be director of Green for Danger and the excellent State Secret).

 

Aside from the train setting, however, in which various passengers intermingle with one another, with crime and murder to be a part of the course of this trip, this film has, like the later Hitchcock film, a lightness in tone that adds to its pleasure. One seriously has to wonder, in fact, if the future Sir Alfred didn't see this film before he directed his own variation on it. 

 

As directed by Walter Forde, Rome Express moves with the same speed as the express train on which the story is set, the main plot involving a stolen Van Dyke painting hidden in a briefcase and two partners of the thief, one of them very deadly, indeed, in search of the now frightened man who decided to abscond with the painting on his own.

 

The largely British cast is fine, including Joan Barry (a Hitchcock leading lady around this time in Rich and Strange) and, particularly effective, Donald Calthrop, whom Hitchcock buffs may recall as the blackmailer in Blackmail, Alfred's first talkie. In this film he's the man with the hidden Van Dyke.

 

Cedric Hardwicke also scores very well here as a smug, penny pinching millionaire forever castigating his cowering manservant for some minor misdeed. Esther Ralston, a very attractive silent film star whose talkie career would never reach the same heights as her silent one, is quite winning in the role of a movie star on board the train who becomes accidentally mixed up with the art thieves. 

 

Saving the best for last is Conrad Veidt, in great form here, as the more sinister of the two art thieves searching for the passenger (Calthrop) who has the painting. Veidt brings an intelligence and polished flair to his performance. Ruthless as he is when he has a man cornered, he is also an elegant scoundrel who presents a smiling, affable facade to those around him. 

 

Veidt is highly effective in his role, both attractive and deadly as a cobra. If anyone in this film exudes star presence it is definitely the German actor probably best remembered today for his performance as Major Strasser in Casablanca. 

 

If you're into thrillers, particularly those set aboard trains, try seeking this film out. You should be more than satisfied.

 

RomeExpress_4MT.jpg

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The Rathbone-Bruce Holmes' film Terror by Night takes place aboard

a train. As I recall, there aren't a lot of shots of the train moving on

the tracks, just a lot of interior shots of the train and Holmes and 

Watson opening and closing the doors of the compartments questioning

various suspects. And as a bonus there is the name of Watson's old

friend on the train, Major Duncan-Bleek. I say old boy.

 

How about the symbolism of the train having many fewer cars as it

exits the tunnel compared to the number it had when entering the

tunnel?

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Well, I wouldn't feel too bad about this if I were you, Cid ol' boy.

 

Remember, even this guy HERE was famous for saying the following, dude...

 

 

Copy-of-c8040ac9113e866c55878b33530b4b42

 

;)

 

For some reason I can't, even after several Google attempts, find anything about a book my wife's instructor of some class she took in GM's attempt to "retrain" many laid-off workers, that was about how advertisers use selective "close-up" camera trickery to elicit subliminal sexual imigary from non-sexual subject matter.  I belive it was titled "The Great Earthworm O r g y".  It did mention in some cases other mundane objects often used as sexual symbols, like that CIGAR up there.  And KEYS being put into keyholes.  Orchids blooming in time elapsed film, other flower petals and firehoses and such.  And all in order to sell some everyday product. 

 

(A ribald aside):  I too, remember a group of gals in a bar years ago, embarrassing a guy they knew who was there celebrating his birthday by standing up with glasses raised and loudly singing, "For He's a JOLLY GOOD P H A L L US !"  :D

 

 

Sepiatone

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The Rathbone-Bruce Holmes' film Terror by Night takes place aboard

a train. As I recall, there aren't a lot of shots of the train moving on

the tracks, just a lot of interior shots of the train and Holmes and 

Watson opening and closing the doors of the compartments questioning

various suspects. And as a bonus there is the name of Watson's old

friend on the train, Major Duncan-Bleek. I say old boy.

 

How about the symbolism of the train having many fewer cars as it

exits the tunnel compared to the number it had when entering the

tunnel?

One of Hollywood's many train gaffs.  One of my favorite movies is The Narrow Margin.  It leaves Chicago as a full-size passenger train.  Yet later shots are obviously film they had on hand of a train moving.  I remember the scenes in Assassination (1987) where Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland get on an Amtrak passenger train with sleeping cars.  Later shots show the train using a switch engine as motive power.  I am not aware of Amtrak using switch engines to actually for power on trains other than to move cars around a yard or station.

 

As for tunnels, I have hundreds of train books and magazines and lots of train documentary DVD's.  There are always lots of trains entering tunnels, as well as crossing bridges.  They are more interesting and show the engineering marvels of railroad construction. I don't believe there was any sexual intention in taking or publishing the pictures.

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One of Hollywood's many train gaffs.  One of my favorite movies is The Narrow Margin.  It leaves Chicago as a full-size passenger train.  Yet later shots are obviously film they had on hand of a train moving.  I remember the scenes in Assassination (1987) where Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland get on an Amtrak passenger train with sleeping cars.  Later shots show the train using a switch engine as motive power.  I am not aware of Amtrak using switch engines to actually for power on trains other than to move cars around a yard or station.

 

As for tunnels, I have hundreds of train books and magazines and lots of train documentary DVD's.  There are always lots of trains entering tunnels, as well as crossing bridges.  They are more interesting and show the engineering marvels of railroad construction. I don't believe there was any sexual intention in taking or publishing the pictures.

You probably notice a lot of things the regular viewer with no knowledge of trains

wouldn't. I do notice those 1930s films where it's very obvious the train is just

a model. 

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You probably notice a lot of things the regular viewer with no knowledge of trains

wouldn't. I do notice those 1930s films where it's very obvious the train is just

a model. 

Wasn't there an obvoius toy train used in some footage of THE ODESSA FILE, or am I thinking of some other similar movie....

 

Sepiatone

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You probably notice a lot of things the regular viewer with no knowledge of trains

wouldn't. I do notice those 1930s films where it's very obvious the train is just

a model. 

Drives my wife nuts when I point out the discrepancies.  One that gets me is when they use actual train names, but the train they used did not go where the movie shows it going. In one Thin Man movie, they are on the Sunset Limited, which was possible but very, very unlikely.  As it would have meant going to New Orleans and then to California.  Usual route from NY was through Chicago and then to CA.

 

Silver Streak and Narrow Margin both used Canadian trains.  SS used the CP Rail Canadian trains, but relettered them for Amroad and set it in US.  NM use VIA Rail(I think also Canadian).

Amtrak had (probably sitll has) a phobia about its trains being in movies.  Maybe now that there long distance routes are threatened with huge budget cuts maybe they will change their minds.

 

You are correct about the models, but they got better and sometimes I can't tell the difference.  I think now they tend to use more real trains, even when they destroy them as in The Fugitive.  That wreck is still there, but as a tourist attraction now.

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I remember the scenes in Assassination (1987) where Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland get on an Amtrak passenger train with sleeping cars. 

 

I remember the full-room sleeping cars from Silver Streak and Murder On the Orient Express (not Assassination), and thought you were "supposed" to book those on an all-night Amtrak cross country.

And then, like the myth of the Hollywood Apartment, I found out those were only limited premium sleeper cabins, and the standard Amtrak sleeper cabin was a British-style train compartment with pull-down beds, much as you'd find on the Hogwarts Express.

(Not sure if they still use the "Bunk bed" berths as seen in old 30's comedies, back when the Super Chief and Twentieth Century were the most traveled lines.)

 

Always wanted to take one of those, but never found the right destination.   :(

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Buster Keaton's The General, in which a real locomotive crashed off a bridge

 

e7c1b24e0aba188f72aa48aff559f7e8.gif

 

From Wiki:

 

On July 23, Keaton shot the climactic train wreck scene in the conifer forest near Cottage Grove. The town declared a local holiday so that everyone could watch the spectacle. Between three and four thousand local residents showed up, including 500 extras from the Oregon National Guard. They all dressed up in Union uniforms and were filmed going left-to-right before changing into Confederate uniforms and being filmed going right-to-left. Keaton used six cameras for the scene, which began four hours late and required several lengthy trial runs. The shot cost $42,000, which is the most expensive single shot in silent film history.The production company left the wreckage of The Texas in the river bed after the scene was filmed. The wrecked locomotive became a minor tourist attraction for nearly twenty years, until it was salvaged in 1944–45 for scrap during World War II.

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I remember the full-room sleeping cars from Silver Streak and Murder On the Orient Express (not Assassination), and thought you were "supposed" to book those on an all-night Amtrak cross country.

And then, like the myth of the Hollywood Apartment, I found out those were only limited premium sleeper cabins, and the standard Amtrak sleeper cabin was a British-style train compartment with pull-down beds, much as you'd find on the Hogwarts Express.

(Not sure if they still use the "Bunk bed" berths as seen in old 30's comedies, back when the Super Chief and Twentieth Century were the most traveled lines.)

 

Always wanted to take one of those, but never found the right destination.   :(

For the upper and lower "bunk beds" (actually sections), try VIA  Rail Canada.  I think they still have them.

 

Another Hollywood exageration for scenic effect was the rooms on trains.  In Silver Streak, most shots were taken when two bedrooms were opened with the cameras in one.  Or else taken on a sound stage with an enlarged bedroom.

The ones in Orient Express are actually appropriately sized whether on a soundstage or actual train - unique for movies.

They may appear larger because of the camera angles and not realizing there is a wall just outside camera views.

Most Amtrak sleepers still have "pull down" beds in the sleepers.  One pulls from the top of wall and other folds over the daytime sofa seating.  Somewhat different in the roomettes, but basically same principal.  

However, the roomettes are definitiely smaller and while there are two beds (upper and lower), you really better like each other as the roomettes are very small.

If travelling at night, definitely want a bed.

Before Amtrak, some higher level trains had roomettes (2 beds), bedrooms (2 beds-more space), sections (upper and lower berths w/curtains),  compartments (2 beds-more space) and drawing rooms (3 beds-more space).  The drawing rooms could seat 4-5 comfortably during the day.  However, they were few and far between even on most luxourious trains - and very costly.  Even the bedrooms in the Orient Express were not much bigger than the bedrooms on Amtrak today.  Bedroom design has not changed much since the 1920's.

Also the Super Chief and Twentieth Century Limited were not the "most traveled lines," just the most expensive and most famous.

In fact, Santa Fe made more money off the coach only El Capitan than it did the Super Chief or the Chief simply due to greater number of passengers.  New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads probably did have more passengers per mile than other roads at the time.  But a lot of that would have been commuters.

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I had very much wanted to see Danger Lights (1930) last week, which was filmed in 63.5mm, and which had a great deal of actual railway footage, and as I recall, some terrific performances by Louis Wolfheim and a very young Jean Arthur.  I had seen it a few years back and wanted to watch it again with my husband, but it was on too late.  I didn't DVR it because I assumed it was going to be On Demand, but it hasn't turned up yet.  It was probably the most impressive train movie I've seen.

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  • 2 months later...

On this coming Monday, September 25 from 6 am to 8 pm ET, TCM has scheduled 'All Aboard', a tribute to trains (both wagon and locomotive).  Several of the films mentioned here are included.  Here is the U.S. lineup:

 

    6:00a    Wagon Train (1940)   (western)
    7:15a    Murder in the Private Car (1934)
    8:30a    Tall Target, The (1951)
    10:00a    Narrow Margin, The (1952)
    11:30a    Great Train Robbery, The (1903)
    11:45a    General, The (1927)
    1:15p    Danger Lights (1931)
    2:45p    La Bete Humaine (1938)
    4:30p    Strangers on a Train (1951)
    6:30p    Murder She Said (1961)
 

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