The Ghost Train


1h 25m 1941
The Ghost Train

Brief Synopsis

Railroad passengers find themselves stranded at a haunted station.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ghost Train
Genre
Comedy
Adaptation
Release Date
1941

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

A group of stranded passengers are terrified by the weird tales of a stationmaster who tells them of the "ghost train" that rumbles down the darkened tracks. It turns out that the phantasmical locomotive is very real and is used by a gang of arms smugglers.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ghost Train
Genre
Comedy
Adaptation
Release Date
1941

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Ghost Train


While horror and supernatural films were produced in great abundance in the United States during World War II, they were a rarity in Great Britain. The few that were produced there at the time softened the supernatural elements with red herrings, naturalistic explanations, and humor. The Ghost Train (1941) from Gainsborough featured some grim concepts, but took an oppressively lighthearted tone. Adapted from a stage play, the film's opening scenes break out of indoor settings as we are introduced to several travelers aboard a passenger train going through Cornwall, England. An obnoxious comedian named Tommy Gander (Arthur Askey) pulls the emergency brake which stops the train so that he can retrieve his hat which flew out the window. Gander escapes the train officials by storming into the compartment of upper-crust cricket player R. G. Winthrop (Peter Murray-Hill) and his young cousin Jackie (Carole Lynne). Due to Gander's stunt, the train is late in arriving at the remote Fal Vale station, and the disembarking passengers learn that they have missed their connecting train. In addition to Gander, Winthrop, and Jackie, the stranded group includes Teddy Deakin (Richard Murdoch), Dr. Sterling (Morland Graham), spinster Miss Bourne (Kathleen Harrison), and soon-to-be-newlyweds Edna (Betty Jardine) and Herbert (Stuart Latham). A heavy storm moves in and the group plans to stay overnight in the station. The crusty stationmaster Saul Hodgkin (Herbert Lomas) wants to throw them out because he has no plans to stay there overnight. It seems that the station is haunted, and Hodgkin tells the group of the tragic incident forty-three years earlier in which a previous stationmaster had a heart attack and left a bridge open which doomed a speeding train to crash into the river. Since then, Hodgkin says, a phantom train can sometimes be seen speeding through the station on closed tracks, and all who see it are doomed to die.

The Ghost Train was an oft-adapted chestnut of a property in Britain, along the lines of The Bat and The Cat and the Canary in the United States. It began life as a play, written by Arnold Ridley (who would later become more famous in England as an actor on the BBC's long-running series Dad's Army), and first staged in 1925, at London's St. Martin's Lane Theatre. The initial run was a great success, and employed elaborate stage and sound effects to simulate the unseen trains passing by the station. In 1927 The Ghost Train was produced as a silent film in a joint venture by Gainsborough and the famed German UFA Studio. It was directed by Geza Bolvary and emphasized the darker aspects of the ghostly story. The first sound production came in 1931 from Gaumont-British, and was directed by Walter Forde. (This version was thought to be lost for many years, but fragments were found and there now exist five reels of picture and two reels of sound). For this outing, Forde, a former screen comedian, emphasized the comedy elements of the play. Another short adaptation of the play occurred in 1937, this time for television just after the medium had been established.

In wartime, the British film industry consciously avoided potentially upsetting or disrespectful themes, and the recently installed "H" Certificate almost eliminated horror movies entirely. So, when Forde remade his 1931 film ten years later, humor was brought to the forefront. The Ghost Train became a showcase for a new star in British comedy, Arthur Askey. Askey was a long-time Music Hall comedian who had scored a hit series on radio called "Band Waggon." Askey and his straight man Richard "Stinker" Murdoch had already appeared in a film version of their show (Band Waggon [1940], set in a haunted house), and in an earlier comedy directed by Forde, Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt (1940). For The Ghost Train, Forde split one of the key characters of the play into two, giving the exposition to Murdoch, and allowing Askey to do his shtick for major chunks of screen time.

The problem for modern viewers is that any charm that Askey held for British radio listeners or Music Hall aficionados is elusive, to say the least. Askey is incredibly annoying and unfunny. (Just a small sample: upon popping a gas jet while trying to light it to brew tea in the train station, he reassures his fellow travelers by saying "It's alright everybody, that was the tea urn. I just 'tea-urned' the gas on." And puns are the least of his offenses). Interestingly, all of the other characters trapped in the train station with him also think he is incredibly annoying, so it serves the purpose of the plot even if the viewer is alienated. (While performing an endless Music Hall novelty number to the accompaniment of his record player, one of the disgusted trapped travelers yanks the machine outside in the rain and smashes it on the rails!) British viewers of the day, though, apparently did find Askey amusing – he was the fifth biggest box-office draw there in 1941.

Producer: Edward Black
Director: Walter Forde
Screenplay: Marriott Edgar, Val Guest, J.O.C. Orton, based on the play by Arnold Ridley
Cinematography: Jack E. Cox
Art Direction: Alex Vetchinsky
Music: Walter Goehr
Film Editing: R.E. Dearing
Cast: Arthur Askey (Tommy Gander), Richard "Stinker" Murdoch (Teddy Deakin), Kathleen Harrison (Miss Bourne), Peter Murray-Hill (R.G. Winthrop), Carole Lynne (Jackie Winthrop).
BW-85m.

by John M. Miller

SOURCES:
Britain Can Take It: British Cinema in the Second World War by Anthony Aldgate
missinglinkclassichorror.co.uk
britishhorrorfilms.co.uk
screenonline.org.uk
The Ghost Train

The Ghost Train

While horror and supernatural films were produced in great abundance in the United States during World War II, they were a rarity in Great Britain. The few that were produced there at the time softened the supernatural elements with red herrings, naturalistic explanations, and humor. The Ghost Train (1941) from Gainsborough featured some grim concepts, but took an oppressively lighthearted tone. Adapted from a stage play, the film's opening scenes break out of indoor settings as we are introduced to several travelers aboard a passenger train going through Cornwall, England. An obnoxious comedian named Tommy Gander (Arthur Askey) pulls the emergency brake which stops the train so that he can retrieve his hat which flew out the window. Gander escapes the train officials by storming into the compartment of upper-crust cricket player R. G. Winthrop (Peter Murray-Hill) and his young cousin Jackie (Carole Lynne). Due to Gander's stunt, the train is late in arriving at the remote Fal Vale station, and the disembarking passengers learn that they have missed their connecting train. In addition to Gander, Winthrop, and Jackie, the stranded group includes Teddy Deakin (Richard Murdoch), Dr. Sterling (Morland Graham), spinster Miss Bourne (Kathleen Harrison), and soon-to-be-newlyweds Edna (Betty Jardine) and Herbert (Stuart Latham). A heavy storm moves in and the group plans to stay overnight in the station. The crusty stationmaster Saul Hodgkin (Herbert Lomas) wants to throw them out because he has no plans to stay there overnight. It seems that the station is haunted, and Hodgkin tells the group of the tragic incident forty-three years earlier in which a previous stationmaster had a heart attack and left a bridge open which doomed a speeding train to crash into the river. Since then, Hodgkin says, a phantom train can sometimes be seen speeding through the station on closed tracks, and all who see it are doomed to die. The Ghost Train was an oft-adapted chestnut of a property in Britain, along the lines of The Bat and The Cat and the Canary in the United States. It began life as a play, written by Arnold Ridley (who would later become more famous in England as an actor on the BBC's long-running series Dad's Army), and first staged in 1925, at London's St. Martin's Lane Theatre. The initial run was a great success, and employed elaborate stage and sound effects to simulate the unseen trains passing by the station. In 1927 The Ghost Train was produced as a silent film in a joint venture by Gainsborough and the famed German UFA Studio. It was directed by Geza Bolvary and emphasized the darker aspects of the ghostly story. The first sound production came in 1931 from Gaumont-British, and was directed by Walter Forde. (This version was thought to be lost for many years, but fragments were found and there now exist five reels of picture and two reels of sound). For this outing, Forde, a former screen comedian, emphasized the comedy elements of the play. Another short adaptation of the play occurred in 1937, this time for television just after the medium had been established. In wartime, the British film industry consciously avoided potentially upsetting or disrespectful themes, and the recently installed "H" Certificate almost eliminated horror movies entirely. So, when Forde remade his 1931 film ten years later, humor was brought to the forefront. The Ghost Train became a showcase for a new star in British comedy, Arthur Askey. Askey was a long-time Music Hall comedian who had scored a hit series on radio called "Band Waggon." Askey and his straight man Richard "Stinker" Murdoch had already appeared in a film version of their show (Band Waggon [1940], set in a haunted house), and in an earlier comedy directed by Forde, Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt (1940). For The Ghost Train, Forde split one of the key characters of the play into two, giving the exposition to Murdoch, and allowing Askey to do his shtick for major chunks of screen time. The problem for modern viewers is that any charm that Askey held for British radio listeners or Music Hall aficionados is elusive, to say the least. Askey is incredibly annoying and unfunny. (Just a small sample: upon popping a gas jet while trying to light it to brew tea in the train station, he reassures his fellow travelers by saying "It's alright everybody, that was the tea urn. I just 'tea-urned' the gas on." And puns are the least of his offenses). Interestingly, all of the other characters trapped in the train station with him also think he is incredibly annoying, so it serves the purpose of the plot even if the viewer is alienated. (While performing an endless Music Hall novelty number to the accompaniment of his record player, one of the disgusted trapped travelers yanks the machine outside in the rain and smashes it on the rails!) British viewers of the day, though, apparently did find Askey amusing – he was the fifth biggest box-office draw there in 1941. Producer: Edward Black Director: Walter Forde Screenplay: Marriott Edgar, Val Guest, J.O.C. Orton, based on the play by Arnold Ridley Cinematography: Jack E. Cox Art Direction: Alex Vetchinsky Music: Walter Goehr Film Editing: R.E. Dearing Cast: Arthur Askey (Tommy Gander), Richard "Stinker" Murdoch (Teddy Deakin), Kathleen Harrison (Miss Bourne), Peter Murray-Hill (R.G. Winthrop), Carole Lynne (Jackie Winthrop). BW-85m. by John M. Miller SOURCES: Britain Can Take It: British Cinema in the Second World War by Anthony Aldgate missinglinkclassichorror.co.uk britishhorrorfilms.co.uk screenonline.org.uk

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1941

Released in United States 1941