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actual 9.5mm film frame

S.30003 (1 reel UK 9.5mm notched silent film release by Pathéscope February 1932)
SB.30003 (1 reel UK 9.5mm silent film release by Pathéscope - from 1940 with running titles)
A 30ft extract also released on 9.5mm as L.30067 "The Big Smash"  from March to November 1934
"THE WRECKER"  ("Der Würger")    GB Dec1928     Dir: Geza von Bolvary
-------------                    Gainsborough Pictures, Felsom Film
68/74mins (at 24fps?) B/W        Produced by: Michael Balcon, Hermann Fellner, Arnold Pressburger, Josef Somlo
(Approx 12/14mins on 9.5mm)      Released by: Woolf & Freedman (UK), Universum Film AG (UFA) Germany
Produced at Islington Studios
Original play "The Wrecker" by: Arnold Ridley and Bernard Merivale
Screenplay by: Angus McPhail
Edited by: Arthur Tavares
A silent film made with English and German intertitle versions
later re-released in 1929 with a music track and some synchronised speech sequences.
    Carlyle Blackwell ...... Ambrose Barney
    Benita Hume ............ Mary Shelton
    Joseph Striker ......... Roger Doyle
    Winter Hall ............ Sir Gerald Bartlett
    Gordon Harker .......... William
    Pauline Johnson ........ Beryl Matchley
    Leonard Thomson .....,.. Rameses Ratchett

Melodrama - United Coast Railways is rocked by a series of mysterious crashes, including a distaster on the Northern Express in which 35 people die. Newspapers carry the headline "Is A Wrecker At Work?". Roger Doyle gives up a life playing cricket to join the Company Board, but is travelling on The Flying Welshman when more deaths are caused by a collision with a truck left unattended on a level crossing. Meanwhile Kyle Motor Coaches launch a "Road Transport For Safety" campaign. Doyle arrives at United Coast headquarters and meets his uncle, Chairman Sir Gervasse Bartlett, Secretary Mary Shelton and Manager Ambrose Barney. Mary suspects Kyle Coaches of foul play as, along the route of each and every crash, they have just started a bus service. The South Express is the next to be destroyed and Sir Gervasse is murdered [Ambrose suggests Roger and Mary use The Rainbow Express to follow up a clue. Doyle misses the train, but learns that a crash has been planned at Pagham Moor sidings. He dashes to the rescue and foils the plot]. Ambrose is exposed as the mastermind behind the mayhem and also secret owner of Kyle Coaches. He flees on the The Shooting Star Express, but suddenly realises that it is the target of the next attack. Roger and Mary also board the train and, after a confrontation, the villain falls to his death on the track. Doyle just manages to prevent a head on collision with a goods train.
(the sequence in italics is missing from the 9.5mm print, as are the sequences with two leading characters - Rameses Ratchett (Leonard Thompson) and William (Gordon Harker).

(Description from Maurice Trace's fantastic "Guide to Pathescope Silent 9.5mm Dramas, Thrillers, Adventures and Western Films")

The Plot (courtesy Wikipedia)

A criminal referred to by the press as "The Wrecker" is orchestrating accidents on Britain's railways. One such accident occurs on the (fictional) United Coast Lines Railway, whose train is carrying Roger Doyle (Joseph Striker), who has retired from Cricket to work on the railway. Roger survives, and reports the accident to his uncle, Sir Gerald Bartlett (Winter Hall), the managing director of the railway, and his assistant, the sly Ambrose Barney (Carlyle Blackwell). Unbeknownst to them, Ambrose is The Wrecker, and is also the head of the Kyle Motor-Coach Company, whose buses are introduced on services where The Wrecker has struck, hoping to frighten passengers off of the trains and onto buses. When Sir Gerald becomes suspicious of Ambrose following yet another accident, he is shot dead.

After receiving a tip-off from one of Ambrose's employees, Roger and bumbling detective Ramesses Ratchett (Leonard Thompson) foil another planned accident, much to the delight of the press. Ambrose, enraged at being foiled, plans another accident, but his conversation is recorded onto a wax cylinder by Roger and his girlfriend, Mary Shelton (Benita Hume), Sir Gerald's secretary who had been on the train that Roger had saved from disaster. On hearing the wax cylinder that exposes his crimes, Ambrose shoots the phonograph, destroying the cylinder, and flees from Roger and Mary, only to find himself on the very train that is to be wrecked. Ambrose holds Roger at gunpoint, but is attacked from behind by Mary and subdued, and the train is brought to a safe halt. With Ambrose defeated, Roger and Mary profess their love for each other, disappearing in a cloud of steam as the train reverses away.

MovieMail's Review

As a spate of train wrecks on the railways sees the public transferring their allegiance to the newly-established motor coach routes, lurid newspaper headlines talk of the deadly exploits of 'Jack the Wrecker'. Who is he and can he be prevented from creating more deadly mayhem? Stepping into the breach is retired amateur cricketer Roger Doyle, about to join the board of United Coast Lines Railway, where he teams up with his uncle's secretary in an attempt to foil the wrecker's deeds.

Filmed in 1928, The Wrecker - previously thought to be lost - makes extensive use of Southern Railway locations and also features a rather shocking staged steam locomotive crash - filmed one sunday on the Basingstoke to Alton line by no fewer than 22 cameras. (Unused footage ended up on the 1936 film The Seven Sinners). Indeed, the light comedy and romantic tone of the film is strangely at odds with its subject of deadly carnage on the railways - this is a subject that would not be so lightly treated today.

Providing a very early screenwriting credit for Angus McPhail (Whisky Galore!), the film also features a Hitchcock cameo (lifted from his own previous film for Gainsborough Pictures, The Lodger). Its main interest however lies with the steam trains hurtling down the tracks, the shots of the apparatus of signal boxes and the use of the technology of the day - a new wireless indicator to denote the position of trains, a cylinder Dictaphone to catch the criminal. With a sprightly new score from Neil Brand and packed with extra related featurettes, this is a must for silent film and train enthusiasts alike.

Anonymous on 21st August 2009

Pathéscope Monthly magazine - February 1932

1930s Pathéscope Film Catalogue write-up (this notched title entry remained up to 1939)

 The train crash (from a 16mm film frame)

  Watch the 9.5mm print of "The Wrecker" on YouTube -


 1. The crash scene was filmed at Herriard on the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway 
    A set of SECR coaches and a SECR F1 Class locomotive No. A148 were released on an
    incline to collide into a Foden steam lorry. The impact, which destroyed the 
    locomotive and the lorry, was recorded by 22 cameras and has been described as 
    "the most spectacular rail crash in cinema history".

 2. Various running times of the full feature appear on listings - this really
    depends on the content of each print and the actual projection speed used.
 3. The film has been restored, with a new musical score by composer Neil Brand. 
    On 26 November 2009 being launched at a special screening at the Watercress Line,
    a heritage railway close to where the original filming took place. 
    The film was released on DVD in the UK on 16 November 2009
 4. Supposedly the train crash was filmed using some 22 cameras. The line closed a few
    years after the film was made; where the crash took place is now the A339 road
 5. The DVD release includes many extra items, including a transfer of the 9.5mm
    film release with piano accompaniment by Neil Brand.

 6. From the 1 reel notched release S.30003 by Pathéscope in February 1932, the 
    film continued to be listed in each year's catalogue till 1939.  The 1940
    Pathéscope illustrated film catalogue listed it as SB.30003 (running titles)
    and this version was listed up to the 1952 film catalogue. 

 7. In 1933 Pathscope issued sets of running titles for this film which could
    be edited into the notched release making overall a longer film.
(Extra Info gratefully added from Maurice Trace, Wikipedia  and gln)       

A good restoration of the film
has been released on DVD
with many extras
(including the 9.5mm release)
in the UK, by StrikeForce


Created 21Oct2015 ...... Last updated: 19 March 2017 ...... 95flmcatsb30003.htm ......©MMXV Grahame L. Newnham