Friday, July 01, 2022

One of the three great British canal films is missing

How I want to see David Hemmings' first film as a director! 

It's called Running Scared, stars Robert Powell, was shot on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston in Northamptonshire and released in 1972.

An article on the Braunston Marina site says it:

sits neatly at the end of the three great movies made of the canals - Painted Boats in 1944 and The Bargee in 1962, all recording the working canals in their final days.

And as for the ending:

It is followed by Tom going berserk and finally killing himself by crashing his sports car over the A45 bridge and into the canal at Braunston. The dramatic death is of Wagnerian operatic proportions with the car amazingly bursting into flames in the canal. 

Like something out of the end of Wagner’s Gotterdamerung, Tom is immolated in the process, as on cue, the sun sinks golden into the western sky. 

Ellen somehow witnesses this suicide, standing not far away on Braunston’s answer to the Rhine’s Lorelei Rock, the surviving stump of the 1934 canal wall on the non-towpath side.

I'd pay to see that! 

But I almost certainly won't be able to, because no one seems to know who owns the film - it's three co-producers are all dead.

Braunston Cinema Club once managed to locate a print and showed it in the village hall, but they were advised not to produce a DVD or even stills. And it took them 600 emails to find it.

So I'll have to make do with a short film report on David Hemmings shooting a scene in nearby Daventry.

One day I'll visit Braunston, if only to see how it's changed since our family canal holidays in the 1960s.

And when I do, I shall call in at the church to see the lectern and screen that were carved by the Irish novelist William Trevor before he took up writing,


Andrew Kitching said...

Canals are part of 'the greengage summer' plot I seem to remember

Jonathan Calder said...

The Greengage Summer was set in France. The point about Running Scared is that it will show the last days of commercial freight traffic on the Grand Union.

Tom Barney said...

My uncle owned the boatyard on the right of the picture. The boats he built still sometimes come on the market. See for example

Jonathan Calder said...

That's great. Was he there in 1971 when the film was shot?

Tom Barney said...

I believe so, yes.