Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Finishing Line, The (1977)


Main image of Finishing Line, The (1977)
16mm, 21 min, colour
DirectorJohn Krish
Production CompanyBritish Transport Films
SponsorBritish Railways Board
ProducerJames Ritchie
Written byMichael Gilmour
 John Krish
PhotographyVernon Layton

Cast: Peter Hill, David Millett, Jeremy Wilkin, Kevin Flood, Antony Carrick, Yolande Palfrey, David Howe, Don Henderson

Show full cast and credits

Public safety film intended to discourage children from trespassing on railway lines.

Show full synopsis

Having directed four productions at British Transport Films, John Krish left the organisation under a cloud in 1953: Edgar Anstey was unhappy with his very personal, but unauthorised, reflection on the closure of London's trams in The Elephant Will Never Forget (1953), though ironically it went on to become one of the most popular films in BTF's library. Only after Anstey's retirement was Krish invited back, but his return to BTF proved to be even more controversial than his departure.

His brief was to make a film to deter children from vandalising and playing on railways, and his solution, working with co-writer Michael Gilmour (with whom Krish had worked on advertising projects), was a fantasy narrative of a school sports day in which all the events involve railway vandalism or trespass, resulting in injury or death for the competitors. The cumulative effect is shocking, and must have been all the more so for the young audiences to whom the film was screened.

Not surprisingly, it immediately generated controversy, even becoming the subject of a Nationwide (BBC, 1969-84) television debate following a television screening of the film. Some commentators and parents worried that children would be traumatised, others that it might actually encourage copycat vandalism. Many defended the film as an appropriately tough response to a serious problem. Nonetheless, in 1979 the film was withdrawn and replaced by the much softer Robbie. At this stage, we can only speculate as to which film better achieved the aim they both shared, of preventing injury and loss of life, but The Finishing Line remains among the most audacious public safety films ever made.

Patrick Russell

*This film is included in the BFI British Transport Films DVD compilation 'The Age of the Train'. The introductory sequence of this film can also be downloaded from the BFI's Creative Archive. Note that this material is not limited to users in registered UK libraries and educational establishments: it can be accessed by anyone within the UK under the terms of the Creative Archive Licence.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (20:13)
Building Sites Bite (1978)
Drive Carefully, Darling (1975)
Elephant Will Never Forget, The (1953)
Krish, John (1923- )
British Transport Films