Underground: a souvenir programme from 1928

Take a look inside an attractive 1928 programme for Anthony Asquith’s Underground.

Samuel Wigley

Here comes the train, ‘Passing Warren Street … Pass right along the car … That’s my foot … Sorry … Won’t you have my seat, Miss? … Oh! Thank you so much … Hey! it wasn’t for you, you great …’

So begins the evocative synopsis contained in this programme for a screening of Anthony Asquith’s Underground at the Marble Arch Pavilion on Monday 3 December 1928. “A British picture of modern London life,” Asquith’s film balances the stories of two couples in the capital, setting their intertwined destinies against a vivid backdrop of city life at the end of the 1920s.

Recounting the film’s full plot, the programme’s summary does its best to capture Underground’s sense of lively urban bustle. Many decades before films could be reviewed at home on video or DVD, this handsome souvenir would have served to remind the audience of the film’s pleasures long after the projection had finished.

It also whetted appetites for coming attractions, with its final pages devoted to promoting upcoming screenings of the 1928 travelogue Round Africa with Cobham and the war-at-sea drama Q-ships.

Underground was well received at the time, with critics praising the actors, atmospheric settings, and imaginative lighting and camera angles that suggested the influence of the great German films of the period. Interestingly, one punter – in a letter to The Bioscope – demurred. Though taken with the thrilling chase climax and winning performances from the cast, she found herself wondering if the director’s reputation was getting away with itself:

As I left the Plaza I overheard a young person with undercut hair and a pink tie remark that he thought the whole was ‘just a slice of life, so starkly simple in design,’ an opinion which I am afraid patrons of the less super-kinemas will endorse in slightly different language.

No, Mr Asquith, you have not reached the stars yet, but go on shooting.

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