Free Cinema: The Definitive Film Collection


Directed by Lindsay Anderson, Lorenza Mazzetti, Denis Horne, Alain Tanner, Claude Goretta, Robert Vas etc.
UK 1952-63'


  The British Film Institute has compiled for the first time, the definitive collection of films from the 1950s' Free Cinema movement. Free Cinema not only re-invented British documentary making, but this highly influential period in the country's cinema history was the precursor for the better known British New Wave of social-realist films in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The DVD box set celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the first screening of films by the Free Cinema group, which was also commemorated by a special event at the NFT on 5 February.

The term Free Cinema was coined by critic and film-maker Lindsay Anderson (If.., O Lucky Man! ), when he, Karel Reisz ( Saturday Night and Sunday Morning ), Tony Richardson (A Taste of Honey, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner ) and Lorenza Mazzetti screened a programme of their short films at the National Film Theatre on 5 February 1956.

"Every beard and duffle coat in London, every urchin-cut and pair of jeans seemed to converge on the National Film Theatre on South Bank last night. Queues of cinema enthusiasts, even longer than during the Festival of Britain, stood in the drizzle for hours in the hope of seeing three short films [that] in four days have become the talk of the town" reported the Evening News.

The screening was so successful that five more programmes followed until 1959, featuring films by both young British and foreign filmmakers.

The films were 'free' in the sense that they were made outside the framework of the film industry, and that their statements were entirely personal . They had in common not only the conditions of their production (shoestring budget, unpaid crew) and the equipment they employed (usually hand-held 16mm Bolex cameras), but also a style and attitude and an experimental approach to sound. Mostly funded by the British Film Institute's Experimental Film Fund, they featured ordinary, mostly working-class people at work and play, displaying a rare sympathy and respect, and a self-consciously poetic style.


DVD Review:

BFI (3-disc) - Region 2 - PAL

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime Over 7 1/2 hours 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.1 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: Disc 1
Bitrate: Disc 2
Bitrate: Disc 3

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Small Is Beautiful: The story of the Free Cinema films told by their makers (2006), an exclusive 43-minute film consisting of specially commissioned interviews with Free Cinema filmmakers Lorenza Mazzetti, Walter Lassally, Alain Tanner and Michael Grigsby; film extracts and previously unseen photographs
• A specially curated collection of five rarely seen short films from the late 1950s/early 1960s, made in the spirit of the Free Cinema movement
• 40-page, fully illustrated booklet including a general introduction; the original manifestoes, notes on each of the 16 films, plus a further reading list and web links

DVD Release Date: April 5th, 2006

Three-tiered digipak in VHS sized cardboard case
Chapters: Some segments have chapters most do not due to their short length




BFI are back giving us some of the best and rarest cinema ever filmed. As expected the quality varies quite dramatically from the limited equipment used in Michael Grigsby's Enginemen to the stellar digital appearance of March to Aldermaston. I'm not going to dwell on the prevalent damage too extensively as it was a pure function of the existing negatives - not the strong progressive transfer which is one of many highlights to this amazing package.

We are talking the pure essence of grassroots cinema here and a marvelous nostalgic and artistic look at the UK. Immersing myself into these films has been one of my highlights as a DVD reviewer. They capture, a time, a feeling, places and a positive attitude so succinctly that watching is simply just pure pleasure. I really can't say enough. I couldn't stop watching and I want to do it all over again.

I'm still quite overwhelmed to even start on the extras but the included booklet is another BFI keepsake - a wonderfully bound reference with stunning photographs and chock-filled with valuable insights into this project. I'll give it a day or two to mull-over but I may think this is BFI's best ever DVD package to date. A must-own.

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


Subtitle Sample




Screen Captures


O Dreamland (dir. Lindsay Anderson, UK, 1953, 12 mins)



Momma Don't Allow ( dir. Karel Reisz/Tony Richardson, UK, 1956, 22 mins)



Together (dir. Lorenza Mazzetti, UK, 1956, 52 mins)



Wakefield Express (dir. Lindsay Anderson, UK, 1952, 30 mins)



Nice Time (dir. Alain Tanner/Claude Goretta, UK, 1957, 17 mins)



The Singing Street (dir. Norton Park Group/Nigel McIsaac, UK, 1952, 18 mins)



Everyday Except Christmas (dir. Lindsay Anderson, UK, 1957, 40 mins)


Refuge England (dir. Robert Vas, UK, 1959, 27 mins)



Enginemen (dir. Michael Grigsby, UK, 1959, 21mins)



We Are the Lambeth Boys (dir. Karel Reisz, UK, 1959, 52 mins)



Food for a Blush (dir. Elizabeth Russell, UK, 1959, 30 mins)



One Potato Two Potato (dir. Leslie Daiken, UK, 1957, 21 mins)



March to Aldermaston (anonymous, UK, 1959, 33 mins)



The Vanishing Street (dir. Robert Vas, UK, 1962, 18 mins)



Tomorrow's Saturday (dir. Michael Grigsby, UK, 1962, 18 mins)


Gala Day (dir. John Irvin, UK, 1963, 26 mins)


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:


Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL


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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,


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