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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An extremely well presented anthology of GPO documentary shorts from the late 30's when creativity was at its highest. Standouts are the 3 titles by Harry Watt: the famous Night Mail, The Saving of Bill Blewitt and North Sea, all of which would stand issuing on a single disc with an appreciation of the director, who is underrated today. Also especially noteworthy is the jaw droppingly surreal N or NW, the style and execution of which sometimes reminded me of some of the better known European avant-garde work of the Dadaists of a few few years before. Not all here is of equal quality however; a decided dud is Mony a Muckle - a confused contemplation of Scottish saving habits; as well as the dull Big Money, or JB Priestley's consideration of Switzerland as part of 'two worlds'. Prescient of the 'global village' his insight might be, but interest (at least on my part) in 30's Switzerland's infrastructure is slight. Plain bizarre is God's Chillun (victim of a chequered production history by all accounts), covering the legacy of the slave trade and which features a peculiarly ill-at-ease host. Humorously bizarre too, but at least much more entertaining, is The Fairy of the Phone, which ends in a peculiar song and dance sequence. (It's the film apparently in which WH Auden appears as Santa Claus - but you wouldn't recognize him from the brief clip.) In a collection full of the earnest contemplation of male toil, the couple of films which eschew realism in favour of humour and, yes even a little kitsch, are a pleasant contrast. The animated shorts are fine if you like the early style and methods they spring from but speaking personally, dancing shapes may have charm but limited appeal. There's an excellent booklet to accompany all this, need I add, and the restoration is excellent.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 November 2010
This great collection of 22 short documentary/docu-dramas were made from 1936-38, with running times of between 4 to 31 minutes, and are mostly connected with a common theme: the work and services provided by the G.P.O.

Some films extol the importance of the post office savings account, for example, "The Saving of Bill Blewitt" is the story of a Cornish village and its inhabitants, facing up to the problems of the slump in the 1930's, while the film "Mony a Pickle" features a young Scottish couple who dream of a home of their own, with the furnishings to go with it, with the "Thrifty Scot" stereotype trotted out.

In the theme of the posted letter, we follow a young boy's postcard, from his posting of it to its delivery, also, we see post for the navy, and we see a young lad training to be a messenger boy.
We also see the early days of the London telephone directory, which grows from a few pages to become a typical thick volume, add the odd "experimental" animated film, and this becomes a diverse collection, with the post, telephone communications, and the telegram nicely covered.
This collection also contains what is probably the G.P.O. film unit's most famous film - "Night Mail", as we follow the mail train's journey, accompanied by that famous W.H. Auden verse, with music provided by Benjamin Britten.
This is just a selection of these informative and charming films.

Here is a list of all the films, with a few details (All films were shot on 35mm film, and are black and white unless stated.) With good picture and sound quality.

*DISC ONE:
Rainbow Dance (4 mins/colour/1936).
The Saving Of Bill Blewitt (24 mins/1936).
Calendar Of The Year (16 mins/1936).
The Fairy Of The Phone (12 mins/1936).
Night Mail (23 mins/1936).
Roadways (15 mins/1937).
Trade Tattoo (5 mins/colour/1937).
Big Money (14 mins/1937).
We Live In Two Worlds (13 mins/1937).
N or NW (7 mins/1937).

*DISC TWO:
A Job In A Million (16 mins/1937).
Book Bargain (8 mins/1937).
What's On Today (12 mins/1938).
Love On The Wing (4 mins/colour/1938).
The Horsey Mail (9 mins/1938).
The H.P.O. (4 mins/colour/1938).
News For The Navy (10 mins/1938).
Mony A Pickle (10 mins/1938).
North Sea (31 mins/1938).
Penny Journey - the story of a postcard from Manchester to Graffham (6 mins/1938).
The Tocher (5 mins/1938).
God's Chillun (9 mins/1938).

*SPECIAL FEATURES:
*English subtitles. Dolby digital mono sound.
*An excellent 96-page booklet, containing introductory essays, selected biographies and film notes, with an interview with director Alberto Cavalcanti. The booklet also contains full details of each film and its running time.

The two discs and booklet are stored inside a sturdy cardboard outer case.

Another great release from the BFI.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
I've wanted to buy this for some time and finally decided to treat myself and I was not disappointed, not by a long shot. This is one of those collections that keeps you changing your mind as to the films you like best. First it was one on disc one and then you discover something better on disc two. I love the way it shows how life used to be, the very simplicity of the way things were; or is it just that we were never really shown what went on as we are these days? To put it simply, this collection of the old GPO films is a real treat to behold, a trip into the more gentler years of the 1930s, a true peep into how things were and will never be the same again.

Personally it is a real joy for me watching films (collections) like these as they warm the very cockles of my heart. As a child in the 50s I loved going to the cinema and always enjoyed the whole experience as we were treated to a main film, a 'B' film, Pathe news, loads of adverts (some things never change) and the travelogue or short documentary. Great value for little money! If you are into nostalgia (like me), and I mean really into nostalgia (so very like me), you will love this collection. One word of warning though, once you begin to dip your toe into these nostalgic trips, it becomes almost impossible not to want more!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2012
Wonderful. Lovely to be able to go back to days of long ago. Always wanted a copy of the GPO films after seeing them on daytime TV
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on 1 January 2014
It is strange to see these films now - nationalised service industries and the films that they used to communicate their ethos to the public, Interesting social historical pieces that would be very useful for teachers of history, film, documentary or indeed "Britishness" at a certain time of history.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2009
...yesterday and today. These films are a unique record of mid 20th century social history, as well as being technically interesting. Entertaining, thoughful and well worth the money - compare then and now to see how much thing have changed.
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on 16 October 2013
I'm a german historian, but knew nothing about this part of british culture.
Documents of a special time and some really stunning looks into our future!
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2009
This collection is excellent (as is the first) For an insight into early British documentary films making you can't get much better. Well done BFI roll on Vol 3 !
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on 30 April 2014
All went as well as it could go with this order. No delay, item arrived in condition as described and I have no reason for complaint.
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I recently bought this box set to add to my husband's growing collection. He is very plessed with the content and quality.
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