Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Fine films made by the best in the biz
on 11 January 2016
I haven’t quite watched all of these 125 films, but I have watched most of them. So this review is based on that majority viewing.
Big nationalised industries usually had film units whose job was to record and to produce PR, training and informational films about their work. The General Post Office, the National Coal Board and the British Transport Commission, for example, all had large scale film units. Roughly speaking, these are the equivalent of today’s corporate video industry. Most of the films for the general public were exhibited via 35mm film prints in cinemas as support for feature films, and also as 16mm prints for rental to church halls, schools and film societies. Much of their output was truly magnificent and one of them even won an Academy Award ('Wild Wings' 1965). The most famous of them all was probably ‘Night Mail’ which is not included here as it was made by the GPO Film Unit in the thirties. But there are many similarly fabulous films included.
Aside from the largely unsung heroes from the shadows of the British film industry who dedicated their lives to the production of this genre, many of these films were directed by mainstream film industry talent (eg John Schlesinger, 'Terminus', 1961) and were contributed to by talented actors and composers who would go on to become household names through their work on telly and in feature films.
Robert Shaw (‘Jaws’, ‘The Sting’) voiced ‘Holiday’ (1957), ‘North to the Dales’ (1962) & ‘Peak District’ (1954), Michael Aspel voiced ‘Cybernetica’ (1972), Derek Guyler voiced one of my favourites, ‘Snowdrift at Bleath Gill’ (1955), John Betjeman presents ‘John Betjeman Goes by Train’ (1962), and Stanley Holloway voiced ‘The Third Sam’ (1962).
Ralph Vaughn Williams composed the music for ‘The England of Elizabeth’ (1957), Johnny Dankworth and Ron Grainer did the music for ‘Terminus’ and Malcolm Arnold composed ‘Channel Islands’ (1952).
One of the things which strike me most about these generally unfussy pieces of film-making is their ability to capture a truth which news gatherers and feature film makers of those times rarely did. In other words, if you want to imagine what the world would actually be like if you jumped in a time machine and shot back to those times, then this collection of films is a good place to start! Back here in 2016 they are, quite simply, invaluable social documents. 5 stars.