The Trains Scene, Flying Scotsman
Relevant Film: 39 Steps
After escaping his apartment, Hannay heads for the train, the Flying Scotsman. In this clip, see Hannay is aboard the train in the station, and two men are in pursuit of him. But they stop as the train is pulling away. Again, no faces are shown, and the camera focuses on their legs as they come to an abrupt halt as the train moves away. Are they police? The evil agents?
Somehow, police get aboard the train at another stop, and Hannay enters a compartment with a woman and kisses her, then explains to her that she must help him and tells her his situation. The police come into the car and ask her if she saw any strangers, and a moment passes and she turns in Hannay and says he is the one they are after. Hannay climbs out the door of the train, hanging on tot he outside of the train enters in another compartment and starts running down the narrow halls to escape once again. The woman will become an important player in the film.
This is the first of many train scenes (chases, fights, key meetings) we will see in spy movies to come! (Just a few to think about: Secret Agent, From Russia With Love, Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy, Mission: Impossible 1, Casino Royale, Skyfall, Mission: Impossible Fallout and others). Here, for the first time, is the original chase scene on the train – with tense moments, intense drama, and a man, Hannay, trying to escape from the officials who are after him, who think he killed the woman spy in his flat.
Just pay attention to the clanging of the wheels, the lighting on the train, the bridge, the pursuit – all part of the blueprint for future spy movies. Two gentlemen read a newspaper across from him on the train about the murder and how Hannay is wanted by the police. The police are aboard the train after a stop and are looking for him. He enters a compartment and kisses a strange woman, who turns him in – but later becomes an ally. The bridge in the movie is the Forth Bridge in Scotland, which opened in 1890, and it is still around and can be visited. The foot chase on the train creates tension and distress. Hannay, who is innocent, is trying to escape.
The chase is a foreshadowing of future chase scenes and fight scenes on trains as we will see in Spy Train, From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy, Mission Impossible 1 and others. His escape to the bridge, Forth Bridge, is electrifying and for the viewer, a relief. The train is stopped on the bridge as the police look for him. This somewhat foreshadows View to a Kill bridge scene in San Francisco for Roger Moore’s Bond. Here, the police re-board the train thinking Hannay got back on, but Hannay did not.
Wandering now around Scotland, he stops and talks to a man, and asks if there are any newcomers around – he says yes an Englishman, a professor, and yes, he is near the town that the spy was to go to. Hannay must stay the night at this farm, meets the man’s wife, who misses Glasgow where she is from. He flatters her. She seems to like him. This scene is important because, as Hannay reads the newspaper he sees that the murderer has been traced to Scotland. He knows they are on him.
The wife knows that he is the man they are after. In fact, she awakes in the middle of the night, her husband notices, and she tells Hannay the police are coming and he better hurry. The husband thinks they are making love but Hannay tells the husband the police are after him and pays the man 5 pounds. But when the police come to the door, the wife knows her husband will turn Hannay in. Margaret (she reveals her name) gives him her husband’s “Sunday” coat. Her husband is a religious man, and his “Sunday” coat will play a significant role in saving Hannay’s life!
With police still in pursuit, he runs. A small gyroplane/helicopter is looking for him too – ah, remember we will see more helicopter pursuits in spy films, like in From Russia With Love! In the book, it is a plane that is heading toward him. He runs and is running along a river – the Forth Bridge transverses the estuary (Firth) of the River Forth – so this is probably the River Forth, not far from Alt-Na-Shellach (now we think it is called Achnashellach) – a large estate that he was looking for.