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Underground

In cinemas 11 January 2013

We celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground with the BFI’s restoration of Anthony Asquith’s subterranean tale of love, jealousy and murder. Neil Brand’s orchestral score, recorded live last year, perfectly complements the film’s richly detailed evocation of 1920s London.

More than any other film from Britain’s silent canon, Underground (introducing itself as a ‘story of ordinary workaday people whose names are just Nell, Bill, Kate and Bert’) evokes the life of the ordinary Londoner with its scenes of the bustling Underground – the behaviour of the passengers is strikingly familiar – and the capital’s parks, double-decker buses, pubs and shabby bedsits.

From his own screenplay Asquith balances the light and dark sides of city life, aided by a superb cast of Brian Aherne and Elissa Landi as the nice young lovers and Norah Baring and Cyril McLaglen as their unhappy counterparts. The 26-year-old’s direction is assured, efficient and spare, with some remarkably cinematic flourishes, clearly inspired by contemporary German and Russian filmmaking but with a few tricks of his own, climaxing with a thrilling chase scene across the rooftops of the Lots Road power station. He was one of few in the British industry to match the audacity of Hitchcock.

Bryony Dixon

A restoration by the BFI National Archive
Score composed by Neil Brand
Conducted and orchestrated by Timothy Brock
Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra

The restoration of Underground was made possible by the generous support of Simon W Hessel.

Venues

21 April
Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford
Campus West, Welwyn Garden City

24 April
Harbour Lights, Southampton

24 April
South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell

5 May
Rio Cinema, Dalston

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