This DVD consists of two films, 'The London Nobody Knows' and 'Les Bicyclettes De Belsize'. There are similarities in both films: both are short, the first 45 minutes, the second 30. Both were filmed in London, in colour, in the 1960's. And both are collector's items.
'The London Nobody Knows' is, as the title suggests, a look at some lesser known sights of London and is narrated by James Mason. We begin in an old music hall in Camden which is almost literally falling down. There is a sense of eery seediness here; one of the singers who performed here was the wife of the notorious Dr. Crippen. It was clearly a beautiful hall in its heyday, but was caught on film just before the very final curtain fell. We move through some street markets, and to an extraordinary sight in Holborn. Here we see a gas-lit gent's toilet, with, above the urinals, a fish tank- complete with living fish! Apparently some goldfish suffered the indignity of being moved into this tank (which really did house fish once) for the cameras, and were then safely taken back to a better place afterwards. Another old gents' toilet is shown down an alleyway, and it's in the style of the classic French pissoir- completely unexpected in London. We see an ornate gas lamp near the Savoy theatre which acts as a ventilation system for the sewer underneath. Is that still there I wonder? But this film is about people more than things, and we see a number of, mostly, men who are down on their luck. The Salvation Army Hostel provides a home for many, and Mason is seen chatting with a number of the men, all of whom seem quietly resigned to their lot. But this is not a film where the presenter intercedes too often; most of the time the director allows the camera itself to tell the tale. We can let our own minds decide what life journeys these men have experienced. There are true London characters too, the sort who seem to have disappeared off the streets altogether now. A couple of true street entertainers are shown, flamboyantly dressed. And one of the delights is seeing little incidentals; these entertainers take a break in the pub, and a pump on the bar is clearly visible- the dreaded Watney's Red Barrel! The Salvation Army band is seen marching the car-free streets, children in tow; remember that sight? And there is a really moving moment where a man, poor but obviously proud, sings a sad lament (in Hebrew or Yiddish, I think) whilst the demolition ball is seen crashing into walls, bringing them crumbling down. This is not a morose film though, far from it. A sense of community was just about hanging on in there in the sixties, and we see crowds of people everywhere. In the streets, in a huge family shop where all the staff wear white coats, in markets. And children actually lark around in the streets. This is all wonderful stuff, and is professionally filmed and edited.
The second film, 'Les Bicyclettes De Belsize', is a real oddity. It is more in the French style than the British, from the very opening which features a long continuous pan across the roofs of Hampstead Village. A very French-sounding song plays in the background. A man in underpants is seen escaping through an open window. Another man in underpants is seen, through a window, shaving. Then we see another chap, not in underpants, cycling across the roofs. As you do. This ultimately leads to him chasing a blonde beauty. Will there be a happy ending? Watch it and see. This film was photographed by Wolfgang Suschitsky, the father of the distinguished cinematographer Peter Suschitsky, incidentally, so again we are seeing a high quality production. It may not be your cup of tea, but you must see it.
Two outstanding and original films then. The picture and sound quality is excellent in both. There are no extras. You don't need them. I had just read that day's listings in Radio Times and seen what dross was on T.V, watched this DVD, then watched it all over again.
This is a collector's item; buy it while you can.