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Last Journey, The (1935)

Main image of Last Journey, The (1935)
35mm, 66 minutes, black & white
DirectorBernard Vorhaus
Production CompanyTwickenham Film Studios
ProducerJulius Hagen
ScreenplayH. Fowler Mear
 John Soutar
Original storyJ. Jefferson Farjeon
PhotographyPercy Strong
 William Luff

Cast: Hugh Williams (Gerald Winter), Godfrey Tearle (Sir Wilfred Rhodes), Judy Gunn (Diana Gregory), Julien Mitchell (Bob Holt), Nelson Keys (the Frenchman), Michael Hogan (Charlie)

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On the eve of retirement, a train driver believing that his younger wife is having an affair with his stoker decides to crash the train on the last run.

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The last journey of the title is that of a train driver (played in barnstorming style by Julien Mitchell) who must retire due to his age and who comes to believe, incorrectly, that his wife is having an affair with his stoker. Like director Bernard Vorhaus's earlier 'quota quickie', The Ghost Camera (1933), the film was derived from a story by J. Jefferson Farjeon, a formulaic thriller writer popular at the time but now largely forgotten.

Despite its fundamentally pedestrian plot, The Last Journey (1935) is enlivened considerably by superior handling from Vorhaus, and is usually singled out as one of the best of his quota quickies. Happily ensconced between the train and disaster genres, perhaps more than any of his other quota films it successfully displays his pyrotechnic editing style and his love of location shooting.

This is particularly evident in the opening sequences of the film. Although it betrays its low budget origins with a certain awkwardness in its execution, it brilliantly sets up the different strands of the story, with the camera swooping all over a London map to show where all the prospective passengers are before they eventually board the ill-fated train. To fully appreciate the virtues of Vorhaus's attention to detail and dedication to filming outside the studio, one need only compare it with Hitchcock's 1932 film of Farjeon's Number Seventeen, in which the extended train climax is achieved entirely through the very obvious use of model trains.

Even in its day The Last Journey was noted on both sides of the Atlantic for its ambition. The Monthly Film Bulletin called it "sensational and exciting", while in the US the Hollywood Reporter hailed it as a "Grand Hotel on wheels... which will result in the fans sitting on the edge of their seats for most of the film".

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Ghost Camera, The (1933)
Money for Speed (1933)
Number Seventeen (1932)
Harris, Jack (1905-1971)
Vorhaus, Bernard (1904-2000)
The Romance of Steam