Forgotten London films: Underground (1928)

Underground is the only silent film I’ve included on this list – and it is a corker. Largely shot on location, it is a treasure trove for anyone wanting to know what interwar London looked like – around Chelsea in particular. (Lots Road power station plays a major role – but you’ll have to watch the film to find out why.)

And then there is the London Underground itself, which gives the film its title – and indeed its premiss. Carriages, platforms and other public areas all feature extensively – beautifully shot with a keen sense of both their dramatic possibilities and the exigencies of real life. (If that isn’t enough for London Transport enthusiasts, the film also includes a ride on the 24 bus.)

Such ephemera aside, the film is a tense, involving thriller about two men who fall in love with the same woman they have met on the Underground. It is well worth seeing in its own right, whether as a piece of cinema history, social history or – dare I say it – pure entertainment.

Asquith’s reputation has risen dramatically in recent years, and the film was restored by the BFI in 2009. Neil Brand subsequently wrote a new score for the film – which is what you will hear if you watch the film via the BFI.

Underground is available on YouTube here, although there is a superbly restored print also available if you subscribe to BFI online.

The other films I have written about under the Forgotten London Film series are: Night and the City, Pool of London, The Boy and the BridgeLondon Belongs to Me, Waterloo Road, No Trees in the Street, Run for your Money, The Happy Family, and St Martin’s Lane.

My brief introduction to the series is here.

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