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The BFI National Archive, in partnership with the British Postal Museum & Archive, Royal Mail and BT Heritage, has curated and preserved the legendary output of short films produced by the GPO Film Unit.

This, the final of three volumes, covers 1939-1941, the last years of the GPO Film Unit before it evolved into Crown Film Unit, and sees it at its most technically sophisticated, with directors, such as Humphrey Jennings, Harry Watt and Alberto Cavalcanti leading the way in the use of documentary cinema in support of the war effort. Featuring the poetic masterpiece Spare Time and the rousing classics London Can Take It! and Christmas Under Fire, the 18 films in this collection provide a fascinating and poignant insight into a nation on the cusp of war and its transition to the brutal realities of life in the Blitz.

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: BFI (The GPO Film Unit Collection Volume 3 GP) - Region 2 - PAL

DVD Box Cover

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Region 2 - PAL


1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• An interview with Pat Jackson (10:44)
• Britain Can Take It! (7:55)

DVD Release Date: July 6th, 2009
Digipack in cardboard slipcase



"If War Should Come" is the third in a series of releases from the BFI detailing the work the cinematic work of Britain's General Post Office in the 1930s and early '40s. However, unlike the already reviewed "We Live in Two Worlds" which veered toward the silly and the surreal, this edition is understandably more somber and traditional in its documentary approach, as this set focuses on the years of the Nazi blitz from 1939-1941. With the exception of a trio of films at the beginning of the set dealing with London and its laborers, all of the films in this set concern the war effort at home and occasionally on the continent. Gone are the experimental and playful animated and comedy shorts of the previous set, and in their place are films designed to raise the patriotism and morale of the country's populace, as well as giving them the information on how they ought to behave to aid the war effort. As such, the set does not seem like a continuation of the previous material. Indeed, the differences of style is quite jarring, but once one reconciles himself to this fact we can see the charms of this third volume. In focusing on the war years, we get a portrait of Britain at is most stoic and steadfast. We see laborers sacrificing their leisure time to build balloons to guard against German planes. We see housewives taunting Hitler in bombed out Dover, a scant 20 miles away from Nazi occupied France. We see a country that could have been cowering at the threat that they faced, but instead chose to fight. As such this set should be of interest to anyone who is fascinated by the war years. Its value as a historical document cannot be overstated.

Like the volume 2 of this set, the films here have all been drawn from the BFI's own vault. Although many of them show wear in the form of dirt or scratches, the film quality is certainly quite acceptable. The full screen image on these dual layered discs is the result of meticulous preservation and has had some new film elements produced in conjunction with various governmental agencies. The result isn't striking, but for shorts made approximately 70 years ago, they look pretty darn good.

The audio for the set has been mastered in Dolby Digital 2.0, and sounds decent on it. In fact, I was say that on the whole, these discs sounded better than the soundtrack on the previous edition. Although the accompanying booklet warned of digital interference, I failed to detect much in the way of background noise here. Dialogue was typically crisp and clear, with music sounding acceptable as well. Also included are English only subtitles with the disc, which I found quite useful with some of the heavier accents.

Unlike the previous edition, volume three has a bit more in extras to add besides a gorgeous 68 page illustrated book. More on them in a minute, but first let's talk about the book. Like volume 2, it has the same essay on the GPO, but has a bonus essay on their work during the war years. Also included are essays on the individual films and their filmmakers. Overall its quite an impressive accompanying piece and should prove useful to anyone interested in studying this era of British film making. Disc one also includes a short (10:44) interview with Pat Jackson, co-director of "The First Days". Here he discusses his experiences working on the film and for the GPO in general. Finally, disc two contains the short "Britain Can Take it!", a shortened version of Harry Watt and Humphrey Jenning's "London Can Take It!". As the accompanying book explains, the latter was shown in American cinemas, but so as not to privileged one British city during the war effort, some of the film was trimmed and the narration changed to make it accessible to all of the country.

With volumes two and three under my belt, I cannot wait to tackle volume one. From one I've seen, the work done at the GPO in the 1930's was one of the most extraordinary film movements to ever arise on either side of the Atlantic. Like volume 2, I give "If War Should Come" my highest recommendation, and urge all film lovers to give it a look.

 - Brian Montgomery


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