Thursday, 7 April 2011

Underground cinema: London's tube on film

London’s tube is the oldest underground system in the world, so it’s not surprising that filmmakers have dwelt on the horrors that lurk beneath the city’s crust, including alien spaceships (Quatermass and the Pit, 1967) and sleeping dragons (Reign of Fire, 2002). In classic British horror film Death Line (1972), Donald Pleasence’s investigation into deaths at Russell Square leads him to inbred, plague-ridden cannibals trapped underground following a cave-in back in 1892.

Tottenham Court Road station is the scene of a memorable chase in John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London (1981) while Franka Potente discovers the dangers of dropping off on the last train home in Creep (2004). Appropriately, director Ben Hopkins views commuters almost like zombies in The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz (2000).

Londoners’ propensity for (urban-)myth making began as early as 1935, when rumours started to circulate that the disused British Museum station was haunted by the ghost of one of the institution's (Egyptian) mummies; a national newspaper even offered a reward to anyone willing to spend the night in the closed station. There were no takers.

The story appears to have sprung from that year’s hit Bulldog Jack, which features a supposed tunnel from the old station - renamed Bloomsbury in the film - to the historic museum. The film, starring Ralph Richardson and Fay Wray, features a climactic chase scene aboard a runaway tube train.

Zone extension: Manhunt, Passport to Pimlico, Sliding Doors, Tube Tales.

More fictional stations: Crouch End (Shaun of the Dead), High Holburn (Bulldog Drummond), Hobbs End (Quatermass and the Pit) and Vauxhall Cross (Die Another Day).

Tube blunder: Going to Heathrow on a train marked Cockfosters - the other end of the Piccadilly Line (The Rachel Papers).

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