Terminus: Schlesinger’s Controversial Docu

Terminus is a 30 minute British Transport Film documentary, directed by John Schlesinger, who would go on to have a spectacular career as a filmmaker, winning the Best Director Oscar for Midnight Cowboy in 1969.

Produced by Edgar Anstey, the docu presents a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ look at an ordinary day at Waterloo station in London.

It was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for Best Documentary and, for a time, the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, before being disqualified after it was discovered that the film was first released prior to the eligibility period.

The film covers both staff and passengers around the station. The trains are still pulled by steam locomotives.

It depicts two dozen people, taking telephone calls with questions about travel.

The boat-train “Victoria Castle” arrives and passengers are greeted by friends. A group of prisoners, handcuffed in pairs, are placed in a carriage whilst the general public are held back by police. The lost property office is filled with umbrellas. A coffin is placed in the guard van. A large group of Jamaicans board the train to Southampton.

A young boy, Matthew Perry, is traumatized as the police take him to an office where an announcement is made for his mother to collect him.

Late at night girls drink Kia-Ora and sailors smoke cigarettes. Some travellers sleep on benches. A homeless bag-lady wanders aimlessly, checking rubbish bins for food.

Many of the supposedly ‘reportage’ shots were staged. Schlesinger makes a cameo appearance as a passing business man.

The apparently lost child, Matthew Perry, was temporarily abandoned deliberately by his mother Margaret, an actress relative of Schlesinger.

Other people who appear were also actors, including handcuffed convicts and confused elderly woman.

Original music was by Ron Grainer.

Terminus was originally announced as a nominee, but the nomination was rescinded as the film had been released prior to the eligibility period.

Films directed by John Schlesinger

Terminus (1961)

A Kind of Loving (1962)

Billy Liar (1963)

Darling (1965)

Israel: A Right to Live (1967)

Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

Visions of Eight (1973)

The Day of the Locust (1975)

Marathon Man (1976)

Yanks (1979)

Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)

An Englishman Abroad (1983)

The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)

The Believers (1987)

Madame Sousatzka (1988)

Pacific Heights (1990)

A Question of Attribution (1991)

The Innocent (1993)

Cold Comfort Farm (1995)

Eye for an Eye (1996)

The Tale of Sweeney Todd (1998)

The Next Best Thing (2000)