The Interrupted Journey

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The Interrupted Journey
The Interrupted Journey poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Daniel Birt
Produced by Anthony Havelock-Allan
Written by Michael Pertwee
Starring Richard Todd
Valerie Hobson
Christine Norden
Tom Walls
Music by Stanley Black
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Edited by Danny Chorlton
Valiant Films
Distributed by British Lion Film Corporation
Release date
12 October 1949
Running time
80 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office £126,179 (UK)[1]

The Interrupted Journey is a 1949 British thriller film directed by Daniel Birt and starring Valerie Hobson, Richard Todd, Christine Norden and Tom Walls.[2] The railways scenes were shot at Longmoor in Hampshire.[3] In the film, a man fleeing with his mistress narrowly escapes a train crash after he pulls the emergency cord. The film bore a resemblance to the Winsford train crash which had occurred the previous year and in which 24 people had died.


John North, a struggling writer, is eloping with his mistress (Susan) following an incidental quarrel with his wife that morning who's frustrated that her husband refuses employment offered by her father, considering their parlous finances. After meeting Susan in London, he detects they are being followed both in the street and at the railway cafe where they have a cup of tea, though Susan is dismissive of his concerns. Once they are on the train, he still can't rid himself of his unease as they sit discussing their new life together. North is guilt ridden while recollecting the quarrel and feels affection for his wife. Seeing Susan is asleep, North goes out into the corridor to try and gather his thoughts and it is then he again sees the man he believes has been following them. At this point, North hears from a train inspector that they are approaching a point on the line noted earlier by North to be near his property. Troubled by his escapade and suspicious of the man following them, North sees an opportunity of an exit from his dilemma at a point when the carriage is fogged up with steam and pulls the emergency communication cord to stop the train. As the train stops, he jumps off and traces his way to his property. The train is stopped just a couple of minutes away from his house. When he gets there, he finds his wife, Carol Valerie Hobson, waiting for him with expectation. Feeling a burst of relief and love for her, they chat and embrace.

As they are embracing, the sound of a massive train crash reaches the house. Carol immediately runs to help the victims, while John stands there stunned as he realises it is the train he has just left that has been involved in the disaster. After they run down to help, North walks amidst the chaos and from a shattered carriage he catches sight of a lifeless arm sticking out of the wreckage that clearly belongs to his mistress Susan Wilding. She and many others in the carriage have been killed in the collision. North chooses to say nothing about his presence on the train to his wife, maintaining that he returned from London by road.

Over the next few days, North is guilt-ridden as the details of the crash emerge. After the train stopped when he pulled the cord, it was struck by a goods train. Viewers learn that there are twenty dead with others injured and bodies are still being dug out from the wreckage. North's problems increase with the appearance of Clayton, an idiosyncratic British Railways crash inspector, who begins to ask questions that clearly unnerve North. North denies any connection with anyone on the train, although Clayton has recovered documents connecting North and his mistress which were found on the man who had been following them, a private detective hired by her husband, who had also died in the crash. Carol notes that initials linking her husband to the crash on the document could equally implicate Susan's husband, presumed dead from the carriage.

Unable any longer to keep the pretence up, North admits to his wife that he was on the train and pulled the cord and that he was running away with another woman. In spite of his confession she decides to stand by him as his renewed love for her is clear. He then steels himself to confess to Clayton, only to hear on the radio that the crash had been caused by a failed signal rather than his pulling the cord. In spite of this, they still go to Clayton who admits that he won't make anything more of North's actions as "he doesn't want any more lives to be lost in the wreckage". North and his wife go home, apparently to hear no more about the case.

The next day, however, Clayton returns with Inspector Waterson who has orders to bring North in for questioning. Before the train crash, it has now been discovered, Mrs Wilding was shot through the heart. Waterson insists that North killed her and then jumped off the train, but North refuses to confess to this. After making his statement, he is free to go, but with a cloud now hanging over him and the prospect of being hanged for murder. Now even his wife is losing faith in his innocence, and when the police uncover a revolver in the garden pond, it seems he is certain to be hanged.

North goes on the run from the police, visiting the Wilding house in London, and trying to discover if Mr Wilding is still alive, as he is listed amongst the railway crash dead. Wilding's mother insists to him that she has identified her son's body. He then travels down to the hotel in Plymouth where he had planned to stay with his mistress, and finds another person there under North's assumed name. It turns out to be Mr Wilding, who had been on the train and murdered his wife, and then made off. The two men confront each other and Wilding shoots North between the eyes.

North comes to, back on the train, having just stepped out into the corridor. Instead of jumping off, North quietly returns to Susan Wilding. This time it is she who pulls the cord, sensing that his heart is not really in their affair any more, and tells him to go back to his wife. He returns to her, and they embrace. He hears the sound of whistles on the track and fears another collision, but it is just the train moving off again after the delay.



Tony Havelock-Allen was running a production company, Constellation Films. Daniel Birt was an editor who wanted to direct and brought Interrupted Journey to the company. Havelock-Allen was married to Valerie Hobson at the time and he also felt the movie might make a good vehicle for Richard Todd who had just become a star with The Hasty Heart. The producer later recalled:

I didn't think much of the project, but if you have a company you have to do something, because the money keeps on going out. It had no success at all, however. Daniel Birt was obviously not going to be a great director; editors can always make films but only the very talented ones can make good films.[4]

To help accurately portray officers of the Plymouth City Police, Havelock-Allan wrote to the Chief Constable, Mr J.F. Skittery, asking for advice on the design of police uniforms. Skittery responded by compiling a small hand-written book containing photographs of clothing, helmets, badges and equipment, and enclosed enough helmet badges, collar badges and buttons to supply all of the cast in the film who would be portraying Plymouth City Police officers.[5]


The film's ending is sometimes considered contrived by critics, as Todd realises that much of the plot has been a nightmare and awakens from this dream sequence shortly before the conclusion for a happy ending. However it has been noted that the whole film "simulates the qualities of a nightmare" through its use of coincidences and the lighting.[6] The Encyclopedia of Film Noir describes it as a "superior film noir" and compares its ending to the 1944 The Woman in the Window;[7] there is also a parallel to the more modern film Sliding Doors, that may have obtained inspiration from this predecessor, dealing as it does with two alternate realities.


  1. ^ Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p489
  2. ^ "The Interrupted Journey". BFI. 
  3. ^ Gripton p.74
  4. ^ Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p293
  5. ^ "Police Chief Was Helpful" Gloucester Journal 14 May 1949
  6. ^ Mayer & McDonnell p.234
  7. ^ Mayer & McDonnell p.234


  • Mayer, Geoff & McDonnell, Brian. Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Greenwood Press, 2007.
  • Gripton, Peter. A History of Greatham. Las Atalayas, 2003.

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