The Finishing Line (1977)

No catalogue description is known for this film, but a former BTF employee and one of the film's stars, a then 10 year old Brian Winter, have offered the following description and reminsices :-

The film takes place in the imagination of a schoolboy. As he looks over a railway bridge he thinks of the idea of a school sports day on the railway track. There are four events (all activities which children regularly participate in when tresspassing on the railway) and the children are split into competitive teams :-

Breaking the railway fence
Last-across the tracks in front of a train
Throwing stones at a passing train
The Great Tunnel Walk

In the film though, we see the tragic results, including a badly injured driver, the result of a heavy stone shattering his cab windows.

The film was filmed at what is now Watton at Stone station on the WAGN Hertford North Loop. The 'tunnel walk' was filmed in one of the nearby tunnels. BTF had posession from 9.30am until 4pm for 5 days and had the use of one diesel railcar (destined for repair after shooting!).

Brian adds, "I had a speaking part - I had to call out "come back" when all the kids left the girl on the track in the 'breaking the railway fence' game"... my 15 minutes of fame! The main thing I recall is after the last day filming, which incidently was the tunnel walk. We all went home still with all the gorey make up on... the look on passer-bys' faces was brilliant as we all looked like we'd been in a real accident!"

Distribution was carefully controlled. There were not many prints made and the film was not put into the BTF Library. It was borrowed by schools to show with parents permission and with staff present. BR staff also showed the film in many schools by invitation.

The film was run in its entirity several times on TV and started with a showing on BBC TV "Nationwide" with discussion afterwards, many also phoned in with their views.

The film was horrible, made to shock and be remembered. The controvosy it caused was great for bringing the issues to the public eye but it was quickly replaced by "Robbie" in 1979.

Paul Smith of Paddington Films advises that the Finishing Line did indeed gain at least two awards in 1977 (Source BTF awards list) :-

Certificate of apperciation (Top Catergory) Oberhausen
Mention, Festival of Youth Paris (pictured).

The BFI's 'Screenonline' service has added the introductory sequence to this controversial track safety film - Click here to view it.

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