Going underground: scenes from a dark place
“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)