The Bluegown Blog

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Possibly the most bizarre thing I have ever seen...

By alicebg, Aug 17 2017 07:10PM

A wee while ago, as is my wont, I was browsing a local charity shop, when my eyes fell upon a DVD with the tantalising title Rare American Locomotives. The cover blurb promised 39 minutes of 'recently rediscovered' footage from the 1920s, plus a montage of British and European locos as a bonus. Mine for a quid, as indeed it soon was. Little did I suspect this E-rated disc would plunge me into a surrealist nightmare.

The first obvious drawback to Rare American Locomotives is its complete absence of any captioning or commentary. It is literally a random collection of clips of varying quality, accompanied by music (more on that later). It thus becomes something of a puzzle to view, trying to identify what, where and when you are looking at. Some of the shots I was pleasingly able to identify as being from the Baltimore & Ohio's 'Fair of the Iron Horse' in 1925, but others will likely remain a mystery forever.

The second, and rather more serious, drawback to this DVD is that its title is completely fraudulent. American steam accounts for fully five minutes of the show, whereupon we cut abruptly (and incoherently) to the Ffestiniog Railway in Wales. After that it's UK trains all the way (not all steam) with a few German clips thrown in. Some of the footage can be confidently dated to the late 50s and early 60s (including segments from the famous speeded-up 'London to Brighton' film) and some of it is even from the Stockton & Darlington 150 cavalcade at Shildon in 1975, so hardly constitutes 'rare footage from the 1920s'. All of this is accompanied by jauntily annoying music that plays on a repeating loop for fully 35 minutes, turning an otherwise merely baffling exercise into exquisite torture. At no point does it make the slightest sense, even as a dream sequence - Flying Scotsman pops up regularly in various guises, but for no discernible reason.

What's most troubling about the whole farrago is that somebody was presumably paid for throwing it together (and boy, did they throw): possibly even more troubling is that someone else deemed it worthy of commercial release and dared to sell it to an unsuspecting public. Had I spent more than a quid, I'd have felt thoroughly ripped off - as it is, I still feel somewhat burned. Question is, do I send it back to the shop so that some sucker can experience this lunacy, or do I put the vthing out of its misery? Decisions, decisions...

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