19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2010
Travel round many of the old British mining areas today and it's hard to imagine the scale of the mining industry fifty years and more ago - an industry that employed tens of thousands and was the heart and soul of many of our industrial communities. After doing a little research into the County Durham mining, I came across `Portrait of a Miner' and decided to take a chance.
The contents are an eclectic collection of the mining review (what today we would call a magazine program, produced by the National Coal Board) and sundry other informational programs covering technical, business and social aspects of mining and mining communities from the 1940's to the late 1970's. In total, there is over three and a half hours of footage although the individual programs are quite short - ranging from five to fifteen or so minutes. As well as mining coal, you will see singing, dancing, ponies, pigeons, brief nudity and learn the intimate details of selecting and using a shovel. The styles are as varied as the contents including black and white, color, animation, news-like narration, interviews and rather cheesy dramatizations.
Released by the BFI, Volume One (...which suggests that more are planned), is a two DVD set, packaged in the usual way and comes with a very nicely produced booklet (50+ pages) covering the background to the material. All has been remastered and within the limits of the original material, I found the picture and sound quality throughout very good. Overall this is a good quality package, nicely produced and nicely presented.
The appeal of the material is obviously specific. Clearly this will appeal to anyone interested in the modern history of the mining industry. There is also some technical information, but it really doesn't go into too much detail. Probably the richest area is the social history that is woven throughout the programs and if you're interested in that aspect of British life - particularly in the 1950's and 1960's, you'll find this an absolutely fascinating collection and well worth the money. This part of our heritage disappeared fast. Some of the footage here is from little more than 30 years ago - yet is seems as distant as the Corn Laws or the battle of Waterloo. When you've finally decided to buy a copy, listen to the poignant change in tone of the various narrators between the 1960's and 1970's programs. The rest - as they say - is history.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
These short films, providing over 5 hours of viewing, were made between 1947-78, and feature a wide range of topics, including health and safety provision and advice, plus the working and social/domestic lives of the miners, also, the demands of management for increased production and more efficiency.
We follow the miners on their journey, beginning with the descending cage, then riding along on the often long journey to the Pit face, here, we often see the fitting of pit props, and the introduction of more efficient coal producing machinery.
The wide span of the films also allow varied coverage of subjects, from work related advice (how to use a shovel!) and the odd educational cartoon, to Pit Ponies and whippet racing. The great comradeship of the miners also shines through. The stories come from England, Scotland, and Wales. Understandably, about the only thing missing from these films is a certain ingredient - the legendary "Pit language", although there is brief nudity.
This is an interesting historical and social record of the miners lives, and the mines.
Here is a list of the films with brief details:
Mining Review 1st Year No.1 - Cutter Loader/Five Day Week/The Miner's Song.(1947,B/W,8 mins)
King Coal.(1948/colour/3 mins)
Nines Was Standing.(1950,B/W,18 mins)
Miners Health Centre.(1948,B/W,2 mins)
Mining Review 2nd Year No 10 - Replanning A Coalfield.(1949,B/W,10 mins)
Mining Review 2nd Year No 12 - Holiday Camp/Beside The Sea/Up River/Pitmen's Derby.(1949,B/W,10 mins)
Plan For Coal.(1952,B/W,19 mins)
The Shovel.(1953,B/W,17 mins)
Time Out.(1954,B/W,3 mins)
Hungarians In Britain.(1957,B/W,4 mins)
New Power In Their Hands.(1959,B/W,21 mins)
Mining Review 13th Year No 4 - The Art Of Mining/Speaking Through Coal/Mounted Minors/Record Pit.(1959,B/W,10 mins)
Stormy Genius.(1960,B/W,2 mins)
Arthur Clears The Air.(1961/colour/30 mins)
Whitehaven Whippets.(1962,B/W,3 mins)
Mining Review 16th Year No 6 - A Story From South Wales.(1963,B/W,10 mins)
Songs Of The Coalfields.(1964,B/W,14 mins)
Big Job.(1965/colour/2 mins)
Portrait Of A Miner.(1966,B/W,28 mins)
Nobody's Face.(1966,B/W,19 mins)
The First Adventures Of Thud And Blunder.(1964/colour/3 mins)
Mining Review 20th Year No 9 - Marilyn/Out Of Darkness/North Star.(1967,B/W,10 mins)
Hands, Knees And Bumps A Daisy.(1969/colour/4 mins)
Mining Review 22nd Year No 5 - She.(1969,B/W,10 mins)
What About That Job - Case Studies For Management No 1.(1970,B/W,5 mins)
The Bother Breeder - Case Studies For Management No 4.(1970,B/W,5 mins)
Man Failure.(1971/colour/17 mins)
I'll See You - Too Late Now No 2.(1976/colour/2 mins)
A Beautiful Memory - Too Late Now No 3.(1976/colour/2 mins)
You Pick The Moment - Too Late Now No 4.(1976/colour/2 mins)
Review 32nd Year No 1 - Band Fever.(1978/colour/10 mins)
40 Years On.(1978/colour and B/W,19 mins)
All 34 films are equally split between two discs, with excellent remastered picture quality and good Dolby digital Mono sound, plus English subtitles. Also included is an informative 52-page booklet, with full details of each film, with everything stored in a slim, sturdy cardboard case. WARNING! The Film "King Coal" contains light patterns that may be harmful to viewers susceptible to epileptic seizures.
Another top-notch release from the BFI.