Today we zip so easily from London to Paris or Brussels using the Chunnel that we forget what a marvel it is. And yet visionaries not only envisioned a tunnel under the English Channel, but indeed a tunnel across the Atlantic.

Michel Verne, the son of Jules Verne wrote about such an idea in a short story, Un Express de l’avenir (An Express of the Future,) way back in 1888.  The Strand magazine in England reprinted the story but attributed it to Jules Verne in 1895.

Then in 1913  German writer Bernhard Kellerman published his novel, Der Tunnel. It was made into a silent film. Then in 1933 two sound films were made based on the novel, one German and one French. Curtis Bernhardt, who’d become quite famous when he emigrated to Hollywood, directed both.

The Brits decided to try their hand at the story. Sidney Gilliat‘s adaptation was dropped and eventually a script was written by Clemence Dane, Curt Siodmak, and others. The British wisely decided to cast Americans in some of the leads and got Richard Dix (whose career was waning) Madge Evans and Helen Vinson.

Leslie Banks and C. Aubrey Smith were added and the producers got Walter Huston to portray the American President and George Arliss to play the Prime Minister.

It’s sci fi 30s style. Melodramatic and camp, but a real look into what people thought the future would hold. There’s even a reference in the film (made in 1935) that the tunnel under the English Channel was completed in 1940. And who knows, if the War hadn’t intervened maybe it would have been. After all the Holland Tunnel had opened in 1927 and the Lincoln Tunnel in 1937.

In England the film was titled The Tunnel, but, of course, in America it was retitled The Transatlantic Tunnel. And you will note the poster adds from New York to London.


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