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Boy's Cinema (26/Sep/1931) - The News Reel: The Strangest Village in the World



The News Reel

The Strangest Village in the World

At the back of the huge buildings which enclose the sound stages of the B.I.P. Studios at Elstree stands a collection of structures which would give a casual observer much food for thought, were it not evident that they are part of the neighbouring buildings where films are made.

The houses built therein consist, for the greater part, of one wall only, that is the front wall, which in the majority of cases is merely a thin coating of plaster on three-ply wood. These walls are shored up at the back by timber, which is cunningly placed so that no evidence of them is visible when walking along the "streets."

The first thoroughfare that one enters on is a reproduction of a street in Port Said, complete with a tramway which would be the joy, if not the pride, of any municipal council. This particular "street," which contains about twenty different shops, stores, steamship offices, etc., is a reproduction of an actual street existing in Port Said, which will appear in Alfred Hitchcock's next picture, "Rich and Strange." Actual scenes were photographed in Port Said for this film, but it was necessary that certain important "close-ups " should be filmed at Elstree, and therefore this particular spot was reproduced in all its detail at the back of the Elstree Studios.

Five yards farther on and we enter a partly enclosed stretch of sand, whose walls obviously indicate the corner of a bull ring. The transition from Egypt to Spain, passing an English rustic bridge en route, is amazingly sudden, but one gets used to these things in the film industry. The bull ring "set" was seen in the Stanley Lupino comedy,"Love Lies," interspersed with so me remarkable real life exterior shots of bullfight scenes actually photographed in Spain.

From the bull ring we turn half-right and find our.selves confronted with five or six houses that might be seen in any typical London street. Macadam road and grey pavement are wonderfully realistic, even to the most critical eye, and vet both have been made out of the studio carpenter's best friend, three-ply wood. The houses themselves are four stories high, complete with glass windows, genuine front doors, with the usual knockers, bells and letter-boxes. One instinctively looks for Signs of life behind the curtained windows, or milk bottles standing on the doorsteps as evidence of human residents of such realistic-looking buildings.

One of these houses has obviously suffered from serious fire, for the windows are missing, and the front of the house has that incurably desolate and stained appearance resulting from the blackening smoke and the water from the fire brigade's hoses. Such is the London street constructed at Elstree for the scenes in "The House Opposite."

An acute observer could see in the vicinity the remains of Flanders trenches, and farther over in the same field stand the smouldering remains of an English water-mill ; relics of former British International Productions.

This is a rough description of what could be rightly termed—the strangest village in the world.