British Transport Films (Vol 7): The Age of the Train DVD
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Directed by Various (Documentary)
Produced in 1962-1982
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
The latest (but happily not the last) volume in this incredibly popular series of films from the British Transport Films Unit covers its twilight years and its eventual demise. Although there are films from the 1960s here – The North Eastern Goes Forward, about adapting services for that region to keep pace with rapid change, Right Time Means Right Time, about how seconds lost by staff quickly accumulate, and Motorsport Tries Motorail, about members of The London Motor Club taking their cars by Motorail for a contest in Torbay, the bulk of the set is taken up with films from the 1970s – ‘The Age of the Train’. It was the era of the Advanced Passenger Train and the Inter-City 125. The latter (whose story is told in Inter-City 125) was so successful that it is still with us today.
By the 1970s, the Unit’s activities were concentrated more on training and safety films, and here we come to one of the strangest films ever made by BTF, and included here, John Krish’s The Finishing Line. A film to discourage children from playing on railway lines, it takes the form of a school sports day on a railway track (an idea so bizarre, Krish said, that he hoped it would be turned down so he wouldn’t have to direct it). Instead, to his amazement, it was accepted without changes, and features children in games such as chicken, stone-throwing at trains and a tunnel walk! Needless to say, mass casualties are the result. Although it was shown on TV and loaned to schools, some viewers were horrified, so it never made it into the BTF catalogue. The film’s producer, James Ritchie, said that it ‘was made to shock and be remembered’. Anyone who sees it will concur that it succeeds.
The Unit’s legacy – over 1500 films made between 1950 and 1986 – is, as shown by the incredible popularity of these DVDs, at last receiving its due. The films are not only an invaluable record of Britain’s transport history, but are also, as a poster for the Intercity service once punningly put it, great entertrainment.
Graeme Hobbs on 2nd April 2008
Author of 294 reviews
Following the nationalisation of transport in 1948, the British Transport Commission set up its own in-house film production unit. Launched on 1st May 1949, and led for 25 years by Edgar Anstey - a founding father of the British documentary movement - it became one of the largest industrial film units in Britain.
All these films are now preserved in the BFI National Archive and are a must not just for the transport enthusiast, but also for the documentary aficionado who will recognise traits and innovation in British non-fiction filmmaking.
Features Disc 1: The North Eastern Goes Forward (1962); The Pain Train (1969); Motorsport Tries Motorail (1969); Discovering Railways (1977); Current Affairs on the Midland (1980); Railways Conserve the Environment (1970); Discover Britain by Train (1978); Old Sam the Signalman (1982).
Disc 2: Journey Inter-City (1972); Power to Stop (1979); Inter-city 125 (1976); New Age for Railways (1979); The Stone Carriers (1982); The Finishing Line (John Krish, 1976); Robbie (1979); Centenary Express (1980); Sir Peter Parker talks to Jimmy Saville (1982).
Length: 250 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 28th April 2008
Cat No: BFIVD746
- 2 discs. Booklet with film notes on all films and credits.