Go­ing un­der­ground: scenes from a dark place

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

“Well, in the orig­i­nal film it was just a hip place to put some hostages,” Tony Scott says, while dis­cussing the orig­i­nal ver­sion of The Tak­ing of Pel­ham One Two Three.

Quite so. Joseph Sar­gent’s 1974 pic­ture, star­ring Wal­ter Matthau and Robert Shaw, made rather bril­liant use of its sub­ter­ranean lo­ca­tion. Yet Amer­i­can cin­ema has had sur­pris­ingly lit­tle to do with the New York sub­way in the years since.

Fer­nando Rey waved good­bye to the cop­pers as a train pulled away in The French Con­nec­tion. The yup­pies bun­gled their way down the tun­nels in Clover­field. But it is the Euro­peans who have best ex­ploited the cin­e­matic po­ten­tial of un­der­ground rail­ways. Think of Bruno Ganz read­ing the thoughts of Berlin’s cit­i­zens on the U-Bahn in Down­fall. Con­sider spooky events on the Bu­dapest Metro in Nim­ród Antal’s bril­liant Kon­troll.

Lon­don Un­der­ground hor­ror is prac­ti­cally a genre in it­self. The re­cent Creep, fea­tur­ing Franka Po­tente and some­thing hor­rid on the Vic­to­ria Line, was prac­ti­cally a re­make of 1972’s Death Line, dur­ing which the de­ranged killer mouthed the words “Mind the Gap!” be­fore an­ni­hi­lat­ing un­for­tu­nate com­muters.

In John Lan­dis’s smash­ing An Amer­i­can Were­wolf in Lon­don, the tit­u­lar lyn­can­thrope pur­sued his vic­tim through Pic­cadilly Cir­cus sta­tion.

But our favourite Un­der­ground movie – as op­posed to un­der­ground movie – has to be Qu­ater­mass and the Pit. Made in 1967, adapted from Nigel Kneale’s clas­sic TV se­ries, Roy Ward Baker’s pic­ture saw in­ves­ti­ga­tions in an Un­der­ground sta­tion pre­cip­i­tate a threat to world civil­i­sa­tion. Now that puts the can­cel­la­tion of the 9.43 to Cock­fos­ters into per­spec­tive.

Mind the gap: Franke Po­tente and Vas Black­wood in Creep (left). An Amer­i­can Were­wolf in Lon­don (be­low)

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