British Transport Films (Vol 5): Off the Beaten Track DVD
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Directed by Various (Documentary)
Produced in 1952-80
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Previous volumes in this series have been based loosely around themes of, for example, travelogues (Vol 2, See Britain by Train) and maintenance and modernisation (Vol 4, Reshaping British Railways). All the collections however demonstrate the sheer quality, range and eclectic nature of British Transport Films and give the lie to a common supposition that they must be “all about trains” or some such thing. This fifth volume is no exception. In fact, anyone who has watched any of the previous collections will know that the best thing to do is simply put the disc in the player, sit back and enjoy the unexpected variety of the films on offer.
Of the fifteen films collected in this volume, and made between 1952-80, nature is a recurrent theme. Included are the two glorious Oscar-nominated natural history films, Journey into Spring (1957) and Between the Tides (1958). The former, with a commentary written by Laurie Lee, is a lovely pastoral film that celebrates springtime in the parish of Selborne, home of the famous 18th century naturalist Gilbert White, while Between the Tides investigates the world of limpets, periwinkles, dog whelks and sea hares of the coast.
Wild Wings (1965), about the Wildfowl trust at Slimbridge, and Wild Highlands (1961) continue the natural theme, with marvellous footage from Scotland in the latter of wild cats, ospreys and rutting red deer stags complemented by a sensitive, poetic narrative. Indeed, of the many pleasures to be had from watching these films, not least is the quality of the prose and the measured articulacy of its narration. Link Span (1956) is another good example of this.
Other films take in such varied subjects as the problems of moving awkward loads by road and artist John Piper looking at art in churches. And trains? Yes, there's a film about those too, Railways for Ever!, in which John Betjeman celebrates “steam, steam, beautiful steam” in familiar, cosy doggerel.
Graeme Hobbs on 13th June 2007
Author of 276 reviews
Off the Beaten Track, the fifth release in the BFI's digitally re-mastered double-disc DVD series of British Transport Films takes a look on this occasion at the films that were not (with one exception) directly about railways.
The BTF unit was created to serve the Transport Commission as a whole and many of the fifteen films featured here promote the pleasure of both the natural world and the built environment around us. It didn't matter whether you travelled by train, tube, bus, coach or by sea - nationalised transport could take you there and home again afterwards.
As with all BTF's promotional films, the indirect message was that transport could serve as a means to an end. The end might be a medieval city or town, a slice of peaceful, picturesque countryside, the Highlands of Scotland or an endless coastline of undisturbed beaches and rock pools. If a change of scene was on the cards, then British transport could deal with it.
Films included on this release earned BTF some of its highest accolades, including an Oscar for Wild Wings (Best short live action subject in 1966) and Oscar nominations for Journey into Spring (1957) and Between the Tides (1958). Among the rare gems here are The Scene from Melbury House and An Artist Looks At Churches.
All these films are now preserved in the BFI National Archive. They have been digitally re-mastered for this collection, which will fascinate not only transport enthusiasts but also fans of historical British documentary filmmaking. A colour booklet containing an introduction and film notes by BTF historian Steven Foxon who programmes this series accompanies the discs.
This collection comprises: Ocean Terminal (1961), Dodging the Column (1952), Link Span (1956), Every Valley (1957), Journey into Spring (1957), Between the Tides (1958), Giant Load (1958), They Take the High Road (1960), Wild Highlands (1961), Wild Wings (1965), An Artist Looks at Churches (1959), Railways Forever (1970), The Scene from Melbury House (1972), Age of Invention (1975) and Seaspeed Express (1980).
Length: 304 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Cat No: BFIVD744
Format: DVD Colour
- 2 discs.
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