on 22 October 2008
The screening the above reviewer refers to was indeed priceless but the films in that show were from a few years later and will no doubt appear in a future collection - so if you're looking for "Night Mail", this isn't the one to get though it is currently avalaible on the "Night Mail" DVD. This DVD features:
The Coming of the Dial (Stuart Legg 1933), Cable Ship (Alexander Shaw, Stuart Legg 1933), Granton Trawler (John Grierson 1934), John Atkins Saves Up (Arthur Elton 1934), Air Post (Geoffrey Clark 1934), The Glorious Sixth of June (Alberto Cavalcanti 1934), Pett and Pott (Alberto Cavalcanti 1934), 6.30 Collection (Harry Watt, Edgar Anstey 1934), Weather Forecast (Evelyn Spice 1934), Song of Ceylon (Basil Wright 1934), A Colour Box (Len Lye 1935), Coal Face (Alberto Cavalcanti 1935), The King's Stamp (William Coldstream 1935), BBC: The Voice of Britain (Stuart Leg 1935) Sixpenny Telegram (Donald Taylor 1935)
The only one of these films I can comment on is Len Lye's "Colour Box", a psychedelic piece of abstract animation set to Cuban music; well ahead of its time. I'd love to see a Len Lye collection released. If the screening is anything to go by, these films will also be fascinating pieces of "Anglicana" for anyone interested in film history or social history in general.
on 11 December 2009
The kind of talent which went into making these films--mostly brief, some only a few minutes long--would probably nowadays be making movies, and not the shoddy, patronising nonsense we're bombarded with nowadays when people try to sell us stuff. And indeed some of those involved, leaving aside those documentary geniuses Basil Wright and John Grierson, did go on to careers in film, such as Alberto Cavalcanti; what's more, one of those writing music for these adverts and information shorts was a young Benjamin Britten, and the painter/photographer Moholy-Nagy contributed a marvellous sequence to The Coming of the Dial.
There are more or less "straight" documentaries, such as 6.30 Collection or Weather Forecast (directed, for once, by a woman, Evelyn Spice, a journalist by training who eventually went on to have a career with the National Film Board of Canada); their originality is now hard to appreciate simply because the techniques pioneered here have become standard, but they show us, in however refracted and indirect a form, something of a Britain now vanished, and the ways in which these films present what were once technological marvels together with their impact on society, or the benefits of saving to the working and lower middle classes, are lessons in clarity and emotional engagement combined. The inventiveness and joie de vivre of Len Lye's short Colour Box are still remarkable, and the romantic silliness of John Atkins Saves Up and of the tongue-in-cheek morality tale Pett and Pott is delightful. My absolute favourite is Sixpenny Telegram, a wonderfully youthful, joyful hymn (with Britten's music) to a now-vanished symbol of modernity, convenience and speed. The only "miss" for me was Basil Wright's Song of Ceylon, the longest film, which I found boring and artificial. But the rest, including the two extras--especially the dully-titled GPO Film Display Trailer, which is actually an absolute gem--and the accompanying booklet, are more than worth the price of this excellent collection. More of these 30's films ought to be made available.
This diverse collection of fifteen documentary/docu-dramas were made by the GPO film unit from 1933-35, with running times ranging from 4 to 56 minutes, and covers mostly the post, the telephone, and the telegram.
The first film "The Coming Of The Dial" shows new technology replacing the need for telephone operators to place calls manually with plugs and switches.
My personal favourite of the collection is "John Atkins Saves Up", a charmingly whimsical public information film, in which the aforementioned Mr Atkins goes to the post office every week to place money in his post office savings account for his summer holiday, and when sat at his office desk he dreams of romance in his forthcoming holiday.
The film "Weather Forecast" shows the importance of the G.P.O's telecommunications system, with the impending arrival of a storm. The 15 minute "6.30 Collection" shows the arrival and sorting of the mail at a large sorting depot.
"The King's Stamp" tells the story of the postage stamp, with the introduction of the now much-prized Penny Black, the film also shows the rise in popularity of stamp collecting.
"Sixpenny Telegram" is another charming short, set to music, the film is a simple advertisement for the telegram of the title. This collection also contains an experimental animation - "A Colour Box".
Picture and sound quality are good. All films were shot on 35mm film.
This is another excellent release from the BFI.
Here is a list of the films with a few details:
The Coming Of The Dial (14 mins,B/W,1933).
Cable Ship (12 mins,B/W,1933).
Granton Trawler (11 mins,B/W,1934).
John Atkins Saves Up (18 mins,B/W,1934).
Air Post (12 mins,B/W,1934).
The Glorious Sixth Of June (11 mins,B/W,1934).
Pett And Pott (31 mins,B/W,1934).
6.30 Collection (15 mins,B/W,1934).
Weather Forecast (18 mins,B/W,1934).
Song Of Ceylon (40 mins,B/W,1934).
A Colour Box (4 mins,colour,1935).
Coal Face (12 mins,B/W,1935).
The King's Stamp (20 mins,B/W and Colour,1935).
BBC The Voice Of Britain (56 mins,B/W,1935).
Sixpenny Telegram (6 mins,B/W,1935).
*On The Fishing Banks Of Skye (8 mins,B/W,1935).
*GPO Film Display Trailer.
*76-page Booklet containing introductory essays, biographies of the directors, and film notes.
*Dolby Digital mono audio.
*Optional English subtitles.
The discs and booklet are neatly stored in a sturdy cardboard outer case.
on 6 October 2008
I haven't actually seen this whole collection, although I saw a selection at a recent screening called Love Letters and Live Wires. If the screening is anything to go by then this collection will contain a whole host of gems.
These films, which vary in length from a few minutes to the near-half-hour of the legendary Night Mail, were produced by the General Post Office's film unit as information films to enlighten the Great British public about the need to address envelopes properly and how to use the new fangled contraption called the telephone. However, they go far beyond their remit and are innovative little dramas and entertainments in their own right, ranging from love stories, animation and musical comedy (in the peerless Fairy of the Phone).
Even the strictly informational films, such as one about laying a new cable in Oxfordshire, offer a unique window into a bygone age where men digging holes in the road wore collars and ties and the sun always seemed to be shining. Oh, and the lack of cars on the road is worth a look (if that makes sense!).
This is a collection with loads to recommend it; it's innovative, charming and a precious historical document. A good Christmas or birthday present for a grandparent, or, indeed, anyone with an interest in social history or film.
on 16 October 2013
Documents of a lost world; but a world we consist on
Documents of a important part of british film-culture; very interesting for me because I (German) did'nt know anything about these films before.
on 30 June 2011
Another compilation of old nostalgic 1930's documentaries and worth while just to see the old cars, the empty roads, the calm pace of life. Ah! those were the days.
on 9 May 2010
I purchased all three volumes of the GPO Film Unit Collection, a total running time of eleven and a half hours. Each volume is very well presented and includes a slip case with a comprehensive, illustrated booklet.
I have seen some of the films in the past and am looking forward to viewing them all again, I am sure the titles new to me will not disappoint.
For anyone interested in mid-twentieth century British documentary films this is an excellent opportunity to catch up on some rarely seen delights. Highly recommended, good price, fast delivery, no problems.
on 22 June 2009
Found this fascinating, you post a letter and don't see the inner workings of the postal system and it's developments. If you enjoy documentries, you'll enjoy this - worth the watch.
on 25 May 2015
Almost like a visit to a foreign country.
on 12 April 2015
this is another great information film