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A visit to the London Film Museum

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The 20th Century Fox 75th anniversary exhibit
London Film Museum - The 20th Century Fox 75th anniversary exhibit

Based in the centre of London’s tourist area, right next to the London Eye by the Thames, the London Film Museum certainly has a key location. It covers everything from the movies, from Charlie Chaplin, to Doctor Who through to X-Men. This is what we found…

London Film Museum - Ticket office booth
Ticket office booth by the Thames © Stephen Payne

The museum is located in the grand building that used to be base for London’s local government, County Hall. Entrance is £12.

The exhibition has an air of being set up overnight, but has actually been here for around three years. It originally had the clever title ‘Movieum’, but rebranded at the start of the year, presumably to make its intention clearer.

There is an inconsistent air about the exhibition. Some of the props and artwork are well described, while others are missing any caption at all (Captain Scarlet title artwork is an example). Some of the props and costumes are the actual thing, while others are someone’s attempt at a copy. Some of this is marked up as such, but some leave you wondering if they are real, or not.

As you enter, you see the celebration of 75 years of movie-making magic from Twentieth Century Fox. This special exhibition runs until the end of August 2010, so you’ll need to be quick. Notable here are some of the costumes from the X-Men films and also an alien from the Alien films.

In the same area is a strange demonstration of 3D cinema. It is actually not 3D cinema but rather a theatrical-style set-up, but I suppose in this time of 3D, it was a least nice to see a nod to this old pretend version.

London Film Museum - Doctor Who
The unreal Dalek and TARDIS are here to highlight the Doctor Who films!

I was fascinated to see how Doctor Who would be represented. The museum does cover some television, but the main part here was portraying the 1960s films. I say portraying, as the TARDIS Police Box was clearly a mock up – no the picture is not distorted, it looks worse in real life! The Daleks are also not genuine – bit of a shame. Nearby is a real Cyberman costume, so that at least that partly made up for this.

Keeping with the film/television crossover, there is a prop from the live-action Thunderbirds film. But I’m not so sure how Gerry Anderson would comment on this as he later said he hated it! Better still, though, is one of the original puppets from the television show, of Scott Tracy. I still marvel at how well made these where.

London Film Museum - Ray Harryhausen
The instalation of pieces for the Ray Harryhausen’s exhibit

One of the best sections is Myths & Legends. This features original creatures by the maestro of special effect stop-frame animation, Ray Harryhausen.

The history of British film studios, such as Elstree, Pinewood and Shepperton, are documented down the main hall. It is more of a read than a chance to marvel at props which makes up the rest of the museum, but it was at least nice to see this area highlighted.

The days of the silent screen are represented by a section on the life and career of Charles Chaplin. The exhibition has been produced by Jonathan Sands, founder of the London Film Museum, and is devised by Leslie Hardcastle, creator of London’s prizewinning Museum of the Moving Image (1989-1998).

London Film Museum - Star Wars set
You can have your photo taken on the Star Wars set

There is lots more to see, including a room with a Star Wars set where you can pay to have your photo taken with C3PO and R2D2.

I started off not really liking the place, but despite my trepidation I did enjoy it and I think most film fans visiting London will feel that overall it was worthwhile.

If you go, or have been, please let everyone know what you thought of the place through our comments below.

[Rating: 3]

You can find their website here www.londonfilmmuseum.com

More photographs are in our image gallery…