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4.8 out of 5 stars26
4.8 out of 5 stars
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As the blurb on the DVD box says: "John Krish is one of British cinema's best-kept secrets: a master of post-war documentary filmaking who repeatedly turned his work and commissions into truly stirring cinema."

This box contains two discs, with the standard DVD format on one and a Blue-ray alternative on the other. The films are as follows:

* The Elephant Will Never Forget (1953) - a short film celebrating the end of London's trams. You don't have to be interested in trams to enjoy this wonderful film. Its portrayal of the changing landscape of a bomb-damaged city in the early 50s is compelling viewing. I particularly enjoyed the shots taken from the tram, as it trundled through the streets of south London.

* They Took Us to the Sea (1961) - a 25-minute documentary made for the NSPCC, featuring a group of children from Birmingham on a day out in Weston-super-Mare. This is a very moving film, particularly given that most of the participants had never seen the sea before. The children - all from underprivileged backgrounds - seemed damaged, fragile individuals at the beginning of the film and it was heartwarming to see them gradually relax and start to smile as the day progressed.

* Our School (1962) - a short documentary made for the National Union of Teachers, filmed at a seconday school in Hertfordshire. Apparently John Krish spent several days at the school before he began shooting, working out which pupils would make the most effective subjects. This preparation clearly paid off, as the film is fascinating and some of the pupils' comments are incredibly perceptive.

* I Think They Call Him John (1964) - For me, this was the most powerful film of the four: a stark, visceral portrayal of loneliness and isolation. The subject of this documentary - an ex-miner called John - is a childless widower who lives alone in a modern council estate. One of seven children, he fought in the First World War and was awarded several medals for bravery. In the Second World War he was an active member of the Home Guard.

What makes the final documentary so special is the masterly cinematography, with its wonderful, Bergmanesque close-ups of faces and the powerful use of silence. Krish manages to say so much with so little. The end result is an incredibly bleak film, but beautifully filmed and edited.

The DVD also contains three extras: two excellent 25-minute documentaries about schools and a short but sweet interview with the 86-year-old John Krish, who acts and talks like a man at least 20 years his junior.

Overall, I can't recommend this DVD highly enough. John Krish was clearly at the height of his powers and the result is four incredibly moving films that are as powerful today as they were half a century ago.
0Comment83 of 83 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This is not a compilation that I would normally have chosen, but it came among the Amazon recommendations after my purchases of various Transport and Post War Social history DVDs. I am so glad that I took that recommendation on board.

The films included have been described in the earlier reviews and I fully agree with that already written. However there were perhaps differing reasons for finding myself glued to the screen viewing, and in some cases reliving, these compilations.

"I think They call him John" was especially poignant in its' own right; a very simple film that takes you through the day in John's life. It is so intimate that you could be there with him. John hardly talks, except to his caged budgie, for he has nobody to talk to. The film drifts along quietly to the end of the day when the rented DER television is turned on with the sound of Brucie beating the clock, and the ironing board comes out and the camera gently pans away with earlier commentary being repeated that drops the full force of the meaning of this film, together with a feeling of guilt, straight into your lap. Powerful stuff indeed.

"They took us to the Sea". The day trip to the sea by a trainload of disadvantaged children from Birmingham was a mixture of pure nostalgia and delight. To donkeys on the beach and the 3d train along the pier. 6d for candyfloss and slightly less for a bag of chips. The grubby faces and wide grins. Absolute cinematic magic with a wide range of memories of trips to the seaside in the early 1960s. If you're in your late middle age, you will find plenty to identify with here.

"Our School" is an inside fly on the wall of a secondary school in Hertfordshire in the early 1960s. However the planning that went into this production is something remarkable in its' own right. It is so realistic that for me it was like being back - there were just so many trigger memories hitting you along the way

To me though, the best of the main collection films was the 11 minute long "The Elephant will Never Forget". A play on the Elephant and Castle this absolute gem tells the story of the days approaching the running of London's last tram. Brilliantly filmed with a wonderfully appropriate music soundtrack running through, I found this film (yes, about trams for pity's sakes!) quite emotional. I have never seen such quality images aboard London's trams either - with the white capped driver in pride of place at the front of the lower deck. Maybe we'll one day see trams back on the streets of central London as we already have in some southern parts - but they'll never replace these magnificent old ladies.

The Elephant will Never Forget is amongst the very best of this type of production, and being restored in high definition (as are all the other films in this collection, being supplied together on both a standard DVD and a HD BluRay disk)) means that - despite being produced nearly 60 years ago, in black and white, with mono sound, - it is as fresh as the day that it was made. Which is a huge achievement to which I, for one, am very grateful to the BFI.

As I say in my title - I would give this set 10 stars if I could. It really is that good and is a privilege to be able to own a copy.
11 comment33 of 33 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 December 2011
I saw these films at the BFI last year and found myself transported back to a different time. The film about trams, featuring the last run in London was mesmerising in its detail of the feelings the tram drivers and their passengers as well as capturing the feel of a tram ride. One did not want it to end. It also depicts how life was simplier in the 60s or so it seemed to me or perhaps people were less sophisticated in the pleasures they took, e.g. cheering crowds as the tram made it last journey into the station.
The film with the children on their seaside outing with their dirty faces and shabby coats was very moving, especially as one saw the children left behind (not selected for the trip) in somewhat `slum' conditions. We moan about poverty today but there was certainly a lot of deprivation depicted in this film. Overall, it was quite a jolly adventure for the children and the viewer could take pleasure in their enjoyment.
The film about the school was fascinating to see how educational aspirations nowadays have changed with the push to encourage university education for the majority of the population. Here were girls looking forward (and encouraged) to seek their future in some cases in quite menial jobs. There was also an emphasis on marriage as an ambition. We were able to watch a class of children with learning disabilities as the very patient teacher led them through some reading / comprehension exercises.
The final film was very poignant and moving as described in the Amazon review. You felt you were there with John as his lonely day progressed with only his budgie to keep him company, cooking his boiled potatoes and reading the very short letter sent to him from his relative abroad.
I was so moved by these films that I went straight out and purchased them as they are films to revisit in terms of the direction, production, content and as a social history of British society. Highly recommended.
11 comment29 of 29 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 22 October 2012
If you have the BFI collection "Shadows of Progress" then a word of warning. You will already have three of the films: "The Elephant will never forget", "They took us to the Sea" and "I think they call him John".

I bought it, knowing that but the extra material is good too. There are two additional films both with an educational setting. Only slight niggle is that the interview with John Krish does not have subtitles and I found it hard to follow all he said.

I got it because I love the documentaries and the reflections of every day life they represent, a life I remember. The booklet is good too.
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on 16 June 2013
I bought this DVD for one of the extras called "Mr. Marsh Comes To School" because I was in it. It was filmed at Walford Secondry Modern School in Northolt, Middlesex and, I along with many others, had two weeks off lessons to take part in it. I was one of the pupils who had a small speakiing part which, for me, was cut out in the final film. I remember John Krish and his team being very charming and patient with us and for me a memorable experiance.

It was said at the time he had a reputation for exellent documentary films and this compilation proves it.
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on 15 April 2013
The Day in the life series of short films captures the images and sounds of the glory days of London Trams; Post war life for Birmingham children this film captures their their first experience of going to the seaside; 1960's comprehensive school life in Britain; and a very moving film about a retired man living on his own.

These films for brilliant social history, captured on film, great for school projects.
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on 8 January 2015
A wonderful DVD that shows what a different Britain we live in today . " I think they call him John " , the story of an elderly gentleman living alone could easily bring a tear to the eye . A must for anybody that enjoys a well made documentary .
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on 4 January 2013
Read the reviews, but was totally entranced by this dvd. Filmed in 1950's to 60's, all in black and white, it is superbly done.
If you aged 50 -60 years, you will really identify your youth with this dvd. What a gem.
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on 17 June 2013
The group of films really take you back to the 1950's and 60's. Oh how attitudes have changed as have the problems faced. The really nostalgic piece is about the last London trams.
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on 15 May 2013
Bought as a present for someone else. Absolutely fascinating. Very interesting subject, particularly the film about Primary School and the trip to the beach. Good quality picture.
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