Great snakes! 85 years ago today saw Hergé giving Tintin one of the classic cliff-hanger endings to an episode of Tintin in America
published in Le Petit Vingtième
- tied to the rail-road tracks, and left in the path of an on-coming train by Bobby Smiles and his henchman Jake!
Imagine being left for a whole week to find out what happened? Think of the tension!
The black-and-white version is a masterclass in editing even more so than the colour update (which is both redrawn to remove the rocky cliffs and done in fewer frames which compresses the scene): cutting back-and-forth twice between close-ups of the train's thundering wheels of steel, and Tintin, unable to move from their path, and inter-cutting frames of the track snaking around the bend and the driver in his cab, commenting on the speed of his engine. The final frame, with Tintin able to hear the sound of the locomotive approaching is thus nail-biting!
Fortunately, Tintin escapes thanks to the unexpected intervention of a passenger who pulled the communication cord, but perhaps even more unexpected is the sad fact that several people are recorded as having been murdered in similar fashion
It also needs to be noted that, although thought of as a staple - indeed a cliché - of silent cinema, tying a heroine to a railway doesn't feature in any of the surviving serials, and is really only known, if at all, in comedies, where it is treated as a standing joke of melodrama, enacted in such a way that it plays to the type rather than causes real peril.
It did feature in a stage-play, Under the Gaslight
, so it's possible Hergé knew it from that, but it seems more than likely that he included it because even by 1932, it was just what was expected to happen in such situations!