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The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come DVD

Humphrey Jennings, Alberto Cavalcanti, Harry Watt, Ralph Elton, 1939-41

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Film Details

Directed by Humphrey Jennings, Alberto Cavalcanti, Harry Watt, Ralph Elton

Produced in 1939-41

Main Language - English

Countries & Regions - British Film

MovieMail's Review

The third volume in this essential series of British documentaries features the final productions of the GPO Film Unit, from the years 1939-40, before it took on official war duties as the Crown Film Unit.

The subject of war of course dominates the films, although it takes a while this to become apparent. While The City considers the ‘higgledy-piggledy mass of brick and concrete’ that is London, and its possibilities for redevelopment, The Islanders journeys from Eriskay in the Hebrides to Guernsey, and (this being the GPO with communication on its mind) optimistically states that ‘water, air and ether are not barriers but bridges’.

The first mention that times are awry comes in A Midsummer Day’s Work, about laying an underground telephone cable between Amersham and Aylesbury, when the narrator mentions that it ‘plays an important part in the plans for the defence of Britain’. One senses that the film’s celebration of the countryside comes from an awareness that it is under threat. Then, with If War Should Come, the tone becomes serious, serving notice that times have changed completely, not just with advice about building shelters and putting buckets of sand on the landing, but also that personal requirements now come second after the needs of the nation. It’s a sobering short film, whose anxious tone is not alleviated by the forced levity of War Library Items 1, 2 & 3, which deals with identity cards, watchful waiting and the Auxiliary Fire Service respectively.

The best known films in the set though are those featuring the input of Humphrey Jennings: Spare Time, his portait of leisure activities in the steel, cotton and coal industries; The First Days, an evocative film of Londoners fighting war with tolerance and co-operation; London Can Take It!, a report from the heart of the Blitz that helped shift American public opinion towards supporting the Allies, and Spring Offensive, about wartime farming. Innovative docu-dramas, poignant dispatches and assorted rarities complete the set, and the films look better than any previous outing on dvd, with some prints startling in their clarity.

Graeme Hobbs on 29th May 2009
Author of 300 reviews

The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come

Film Description

This concluding third volume of films from the GPO Film Unit features the final films produced by the Unit between 1939-41 before it was renamed the Crown Film Unit and incorporated into the Films Division of the Ministry of Information. This period see 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, poignant insight into a nation on the cusp of war and its transition to the brutal realities of life in the Blitz.

Features: The City (1939), The Islanders (1939). Spare Time (1939), A Midsummer Day’s Work (1939), If War Should Come (1939), The First Days (1939), SS Ionian (1939), War Library Items 1,2,3 (1940), Squadron 992 (1940), La Cause Commune (1940), French Communique (1940), The Front Line (1940), Men of the Lightship (1940), London Can Take it! (1940), Spring Offensive (1940), Story of an Air Communique (1940), War and Order (1940), and Christmas Under Fire (1941).

DVD Details

Certificate: E

Publisher: BFI

Length: 271 mins

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Format: DVD B&W

Region: 2

Released: 6th July 2009

Cat No: BFIVD760

DVD Extras

  • 2 discs
  • Interview with Pat Jackson
  • Britain Can Take It!

Film Stills

The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come The GPO Film Unit Collection: Volume 3 - If War Should Come

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