Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Runaway Bus

(UK, 1954)

What an odd movie. It was written and directed by Val Guest, who did comedies and some fairly decent science fiction in the ‘50s. This one is sort of a comedy, sort of a heist movie, and a little bit of a thriller. The London area is socked in with an incredibly thick fog. All flights out of Heathrow are cancelled, and people are put on a bus to be driven to another airport. At the same time, someone has stolen a lot of gold bullion and hidden it on the bus. We know one of the passengers is the thief, but we don’t know who. The bus promptly gets lost, spending most of its time parked on a country road. The star of the film is Frankie Howerd, who I’ve never heard of but if you grew up in the UK you probably have; he seems to have been quite a big deal there, making comeback after comeback in a long career. His humor is very broad, slapstick music hall sort of stuff, and doesn’t really work for me. There’s some good stuff in here, but not much of it involves him. The great Margaret Rutherford is on the bus, playing her patented huffy old bag, but the real treat is the 22-year-old Petula Clark. I never would have recognized her if I hadn’t seen the name in the credits. Apparently she has been singing and acting since childhood; I hadn’t even known she was an actress. She’s not bad at all. It was still ten years before she achieved international superstardom with “Downtown” and 14 more consecutive Top 40 hits.