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Created in 1933 out of the ashes of the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit, the GPO Film Unit was one of the most remarkable creative institutions that Britain has produced. A hotbed of creative energy and talent, it provided a spring board to many of the best-known and critically acclaimed figures in the British Documentary Movement, including John Grierson, Alberto Cavalcanti, Humphrey Jennings, Basil Wright, Harry Watt, Edgar Anstey and Arthur Elton, alongside innovators and experimentalists such as Len Lye and Norman McLaren. Their work embraced, public information drama-documentary, social reportage, animation, advertising and many points in between. The BFI National Archive, in partnership with the British Postal Heritage Museum, Royal Mail and British Telecom, has preserved and curated the legendary output of short films produced by the GPO Film Unit.

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE

DVD Reviews

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

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Distribution

BFI

Region 2 - PAL

Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
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:
• 96 Page Bound Book with essays on the films and filmmakers

DVD Release Date: February 23rd, 2009
Digipack in cardboard slipcase

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Comments

I'd like to begin this review by saying that this is the kind of release that makes me so grateful for the BFI's existence. Their work on film preservation has been unequaled in Great Britain, and thanks to this work and their willingness to release risky niche material, we have this wonderful set of short films made by the General Post Office (GPO for short) in the 1930's. I must admit that before delving into this set I was unfamiliar with the tremendously creative output of the GPO, which employed some of the top talents of their day, including poet W. H. Auden and animator Lotte Reiniger to name but two. While their work was always done under the auspices of informing the public of GPO matters (telephone etiquette, the proper way to address a letter, etc.), the filmmakers typically infused their work with the sort of passion and imagination that you rarely find in cinema today. This is of course, not to say that the films presented here are a perfect lot. Although the best on this release tend to be the animated features (although the utterly surreal "The Fairy of the Phone", "Night Train", and "N or NW" certainly deserve their place in this group as well), some of the more serious and dramatic films in the set seem slightly overlong and could have used some trimming. Regardless, this is a minor criticism, and this is essential viewing for anyone interested in cinematic history.

The pair of dual layered discs come in a four panel digipack housed in a cardboard slipcase. The films are all presented in 4:3 ratios, and often the image quality betrays the true age of the shorts. While some of the films included in the set are in better condition than others, they all suffer from at least some noticeable damage, whether it be scratches, dust, dirt, or frame instability. However, as the booklet explains, the utmost care was put into both the preservation of the material and the choice of elements. Given that its doubtful that these films would even survive today without the BFI's vaults, there seems little reason to complain about the image. What's more, the video here isn't particularly bad. While there are their are scratches and occasionally unstable frames, the image quality was always acceptable for films of their age, and was rarely distracting. Oh, and since we're talking about the release's image quality, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the gorgeous menus here. Kudos to whoever designed them!

Like the image, the sound also betrays the age of the release. Presented in a more than competent Dolby Digital 2.0 track, unwanted background noises like hisses and pops occasionally creep in. What's more, the sound can be rather dull and on rare occasions the dialogue hard to follow with my stateside ears without the aid of subtitles (see the especially charming "Mony a Pickle" for an example). Fortunately subtitles are included and are of the same typical high quality that we would expect from the good folks at the BFI. That's not to say that I'm dissatisfied with the condition on this release. Given the narrow target audience for this release, I doubt that it would have been cost affective to have performed a full audio remastering, and we should be happy with what we have.

The only extra here is a 96 page perfect bound booklet containing essays on the GPO, the individual films, and the filmmakers. Although I haven't had the time to read through the entirety of it yet, what I have seen of the book makes it an invaluable resource to understanding the rich history of the GPO.

Bravo to the GPO and bravo to the BFI. We owe both of them a deep debt of gratitude for being able to relive such an amazing period of film making. I give this set my highest possible recommendation and consider it to be essential to any cinephile's DVD collection.

 - Brian Montgomery

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

BFI

Region 2 - PAL

 

 




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