The C.O.I. Collection

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by the BFI and the films on them.

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antnield
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The C.O.I. Collection

#1 Post by antnield » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:52 pm

Info on the (first?) two volumes, garnered from various e-tailers and the BFI website...

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Volume One: Police and Thieves Two-discs, 296 mins, February 15th 2010
The Central Office of Information (COI) was established in 1946 and has produced thousands of films that reflected the changing face of a nation, and world, in flux. It still produces films to this day. Volume 1 of the COI Collection tackles crime, juvenile delinquency, policing and the justice system. A variety of styles and genres - story documentary, drama, public information shorts, cinemagazines, etc - are employed to deliver crime prevention messages and bolster recruitment in this area. These films provide a wonderful record of the police, the justice system and British life in a seemingly more innocent age.
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Volume Two: Design for Today Two-discs, 296 mins, March 22nd 2010
Volume two of the BFI’s Central Office of Information collection surveys the COI’s treatment of architecture, design and fashion. It contains a diverse selection of films, dating from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s. Highlights include: Brief City (1952) Design for Today (1965), Hugh Hudson’s Insight - Terence Conran (1981) and Peter Greenaway’s Insight - Zandra Rhodes(1981). This volume also boasts two newly commissioned scores by Saint Etienne who give Designed in Britain (1959) and Design for Today (1965) a contemporary music make-over, whilst still retaining some original features.

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zedz
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#2 Post by zedz » Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:06 pm

Wow! The riches just keep on coming. Good to see the Greenaway sneaking in there. I predict the design one will be a big hit for the BFI.

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Wu.Qinghua
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#3 Post by Wu.Qinghua » Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:30 pm

Wu-huh. Now this is fabulous, isn't it?

But I bet that those films about crime and youth delinquency will be a far bigger hit than the other one. Or have I read too much of those ol' Birmingham-style subculture studies?

Police and thieves in the streets/
Oh yeah/
Fighting the nation with their guns and ammunition

O:)

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MichaelB
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#4 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:46 pm

Now you know why I was so cagey about when the second National Coal Board volume would be coming out - the DVD Publishing and Non-Fiction departments have been a bit busy of late!

Anyway, I think I can reveal that 2010 will be a bit of a bumper year for BFI documentary releases, what with these packages at the start and the long-gestating, still untitled postwar sequel to Land of Promise (plus book) at the end. Plus of course other stuff that I can't reveal just yet.

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JAP
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#5 Post by JAP » Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:52 pm

This looks great. After the trains, the Post, the sex and the miners there seems to be no end to the BFI vaults! Already pre-ordered from Amazon.uk.
A lot of samples can be viewed here.
(EDIT, after MichaelB posted: There is no end to the BFI vaults! :) )

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MichaelB
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#6 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:02 pm

JAP wrote:There is no end to the BFI vaults! :) )
It often seems that way - we reckon the Archive is looking after around 120,000 non-fiction titles alone, many of which haven't been seen since they were made, and often never in public.

Which is why the success of the earlier documentary sets has been so encouraging, because it's helping unlock much, much more of this stuff - and the more we move away from the canonical documentary titles, the more exciting it gets, as so little of this material has been properly researched and documented. As producer and critic John Wyver recently pointed out, these releases are all part of:
the BFI's fascinating project to re-shape our sense of documentary history. For far too long a small group of films made in the 1930s and '40s by the GPO Film Unit and its successors has dominated conceptions of the documentary story. These familiar films, including many made by Humphrey Jennings, Paul Rotha and other significant filmmakers, were and are unquestionably important. But the release of many new films on the Land of Promise DVD set, on the trilogy of GPO Film Unit collections and on the British Transport Films compilations is shifting the sense of all aspects of documentary history.
Oh, and I can also mention the Shipbuilding and Steel documentary projects - parts two and three of This Working Life: Britain's Industrial Heritage on Film, following the King Coal season and related DVDs last autumn.

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Wu.Qinghua
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#7 Post by Wu.Qinghua » Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:39 pm

MichaelB wrote:Anyway, I think I can reveal that 2010 will be a bit of a bumper year for BFI documentary releases, what with these packages at the start and the long-gestating, still untitled postwar sequel to Land of Promise (plus book) at the end. Plus of course other stuff that I can't reveal just yet.
Oh ... Well ... Now that's why I won't buy a bluray player in the months to come. I guess all those releases will be SD only, won't they? I guess I gotta rob a bank ...

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Oh, I wanted to use this smiley since I saw it for the first time ...

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What A Disgrace
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#8 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:45 pm

I really hope we get a Blu-ray of whatever collection that Fires Were Started is included in.

I kinda burned myself out of these series after Free Cinema, Land of Promise and all three GPO sets, but as soon as I get over this burnout, I'm going to look into the C.O.I. and Coal Board sets.

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MichaelB
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#9 Post by MichaelB » Fri Dec 11, 2009 3:21 am

What A Disgrace wrote:I really hope we get a Blu-ray of whatever collection that Fires Were Started is included in.
The BFI hasn't released Fires Were Started, and it's not scheduled for any of the upcoming compilations that I'm aware of.

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colinr0380
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#10 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:03 am

Absolutely fantastic! It is great to see the range of the films being released - the accepted classics pull you in but the range of different material, with different perspectives and agendas on ostensibly the same subject is what helps to make these sets so strong as a whole.

I did note recently that a few months ago there was an interesting BBC programme in association with the BFI which showed clips from films whose purpose was to sell the concept of Britain to the rest of the world. That was quite a fun thing to watch, and seemingly another interesting example of the BFI getting involved in rehabilitating some previously forgotten material.

Hopefully once I get some free time again I'll be able to sit with the GPO sets and maybe do a few more write ups! Until then consider me as another person excited by the prospect of these themed COI sets!

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MichaelB
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#11 Post by MichaelB » Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:20 am

colinr0380 wrote:Absolutely fantastic! It is great to see the range of the films being released - the accepted classics pull you in but the range of different material, with different perspectives and agendas on ostensibly the same subject is what helps to make these sets so strong as a whole.
What's particularly exciting is discovering the films in the first place, because catalogue write-ups are usually worse than useless except in terms of establishing basic subject-matter. Almost invariably, there's no existing criticism to draw on either - once you step outside the 1930s/40s documentary canon and occasional pockets of well-publicised activity like Free Cinema, you're striking out into largely unexplored territory, at least from a critical/historical perspective.

So in a lot of cases we just take pot luck - when I was on the programming team for the NCB compilation I watched something called Wagon Handling at Dalkeith because the title had a certain poetry about it, but it turned out to be just about the most brain-numbingly boring experience I've ever had in a screening. Only fifteen minutes, but it felt like three hours, and the four of us who watched it still reminisce fondly about surviving the experience to this day. Amusingly enough, I actually met its director Peter Pickering a few months later, and the person who introduced me (one of the four) rather wickedly said that I'd seen that particular film - and Pickering laughed and said that he found it pretty much impossible to make something interesting out of a commission to turn out a training film for Scottish freight wagon handlers, so he entirely sympathised.

On the other hand, when a little gem like the GPO's The Fairy of the Phone comes up, you generally know within the first few shots that it's going to end up on the shortlist for DVD treatment.

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NABOB OF NOWHERE
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#12 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:08 pm

MichaelB wrote:
What A Disgrace wrote:I really hope we get a Blu-ray of whatever collection that Fires Were Started is included in.
The BFI hasn't released Fires Were Started, and it's not scheduled for any of the upcoming compilations that I'm aware of.
What, not even the forthcoming Complete Humphrey Jennings?

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MichaelB
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#13 Post by MichaelB » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:14 pm

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:What, not even the forthcoming Complete Humphrey Jennings?
Who says it's forthcoming?

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NABOB OF NOWHERE
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#14 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:34 pm

MichaelB wrote:
NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:What, not even the forthcoming Complete Humphrey Jennings?
Who says it's forthcoming?
The Commissariat of Wishful Thinking.

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RossyG
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#15 Post by RossyG » Mon Jan 04, 2010 11:04 am

HMV have named a few of the films to be included on Police and Thieves. They also include the years of production; I've looked up the running times on the BBFC website and added them where possible. The stuff in blue I've copied and pasted directly from the BFI site. I hope they won't mind. I've also expanded on the Design For Today info above.

Police and Thieves:

*Children on Trial (1946 - 62 mins)
NFA Catalogue: The problem of child delinquency in Britain. Relates the story of three children from different types of homes. They are sent to approved schools, and become law-abiding citizens.

*Jack Youth Club (1954 - ? mins)
I don't know where the Jack comes from, but the BFI list a documentary made by the COI that year called just Youth Club. I'm guessing it's that.

*Man on the Beat (1956)
Nothing on either site, but there's an 11 minute film of the same name from 1945 about training police constables, so it could be that and someone mistyped the date.

*Help Yourself (1950 - 12 mins)
NFA Catalogue: A cautionary tale of Joe the burgular, who finds open doors and windows, keys left obtrusively under the mat, milk and paper orders not cancelled providing the necessary evidence, most helpful in his profession.

Design For Today:

*Brief City: The Story of London's Festival Buildings (1952 - 19 mins)
NFA: Shot on the South Bank site during the Festival of Britain 1951. The purpose of the film is to comment on the varied styles of architecture employed in the Exhibition and their relevance in relation to modern building techniques.

*Design For Today (1965 - ? mins)
NFA: The various ways in which modern industrial design appears in everyday life. The features of good design woven around a day in the lie of a young couple.

*Insight: Zandra Rhodes (1981 - ? mins)
NFA: Profile of fashion designer ZANDRA RHODES. Includes footage of Zandra at work in her studio and relaxing at home with friends.

*Insight: Terence Conran (1981 - ? mins)
NFA: Terence Conran looking at his wares in 'Habitat'. He could get arrested for that. :wink:

*Designed in Britain (1959 - ? mins)
More than likely another typo and that this is Design in Britain. NFA: Impression of contemporary design and craftsmanship in furniture, china, textile and kitchen-ware.

Sound like great sets. My pre-orders are in. :D

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antnield
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#16 Post by antnield » Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:10 pm

MovieMail now has the complete line-up for Volume One:
Disc one:
Children on Trial (1946)
Children of the City (1944)
Probation Officer (1950)
Youth Club (1954)
A Chance for Brian (1977)

Disc two:
Four Men in Prison (1950)
Help Yourself (1950)
Transatlantic Teleview 26: Man on the Beat (1956)
British Policeman (1959)
Unit Beat Policing (1968)
Anything Can Happen (1973)
Bicycle Thefts (1974)
Snatch of the Day (1975)
Challenge for a Lifetime (1975)

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antnield
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#17 Post by antnield » Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:32 pm

Having a quick glance through the BFI's Film and TV Database, where entries can be found on most of the films, it looks as though this set will fit in nicely with the 'Land of Promise' boxed-set and the various GPO, NCB and BTF volumes from the BFI. Many names and production units previously featured on these sets recur here. Children on Trial, for example, was a pretty-much feature length effort from the Crown Film Unit (previously the GPO Film Unit prior to WWII) directed by Jack Lee, and Crown were responsible for a few of the other titles, as were Data and Paul Rotha Productions (both familiar names from the 'Land of Promise' set). Snatch of the Day looks to be particularly interesting, an inventive take on the dangers of pickpockets from John Krish, director of, most notably, the BTF short The Finishing Line - a dark vision of railway vandalism re-invented as a school sports day.

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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#18 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jan 14, 2010 5:49 pm

antnield wrote:Having a quick glance through the BFI's Film and TV Database, where entries can be found on most of the films, it looks as though this set will fit in nicely with the 'Land of Promise' boxed-set and the various GPO, NCB and BTF volumes from the BFI. Many names and production units previously featured on these sets recur here.
This isn't at all surprising when you consider that the COI was the peacetime successor to the Ministry of Information, sponsor of most of the 1940-45 films in the Land of Promise box. Unsurprisingly, they tended to work with the same filmmakers and production companies afterwards, not least because they were by definition the most experienced at delivering the film to the COI's specific requirements. And many filmmakers - John Krish being an excellent example - would freelance for a number of production companies.

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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#19 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:09 am

Full specs for Police and Thieves:
COI Collection Volume 1: Police and Thieves

Established in 1946, the Central Office of Information (COI) was a successor to the wartime Ministry of Information and was responsible for producing thousands of films which celebrated Britain, its people and their acheivements.

This first volume in the COI Collection explores the subjects of policing, crime, delinquency and the justice system. A variety of styles and genres - including story documentary, public information shorts and cinemagazines - were employed to deliver crime prevention messages and bolster recruitment. Highlights include: Children on Trial (1946), an approved schools drama set in a progressive and enlightened system; Youth Club (1954), which proposed a solution to keeping Britain's young people out of trouble; Help Yourself (1950), a no nonsense crime prevention film; Probation Officer (1950), a drama-documentary about the profession; Man on the Beat (1956) and British Policeman (1959), in which the local Bobby comes armed with a friendly smile. Together, these films provide a wonderful record of British life in a seemingly more innocent age.

Special features

* Fully illustrated booklet including comprehensive contextualising notes and essays from academics and film historians
* Dolby Digital mono audio (320 kbps)

Disc 1
Children on Trial (1946)
Children of the City (1944)
Probation Officer (1950)
Youth Club (1954)
A Chance for Brian (1977)

Disc 2
Four Men in Prison (1950)
Help Yourself (1950)
Transatlantic Teleview 26: Man on the Beat (1956)
British Policeman (1959)
Unit Beat Policing (1968)
Anything Can Happen (1973)
Bicycle Thefts (1974)
Snatch of the Day (1975)
Challenge for a Lifetime (1975)

UK | 1944-1977 | black and white, and colour | English, optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | 291 minutes | DVD-9 x 2 | Original aspect ratio 1.33:1

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antnield
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#20 Post by antnield » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:47 pm

New cover art for Volume One:

Image

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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#21 Post by Duncan Hopper » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:22 pm

Beaver have a review up for Volume 1. I'll be buying it for certain.

As a BFI champion member, I'll be getting Volume 2 free in the post soon. :D

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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#22 Post by MichaelB » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:35 pm

A link to the above-mentioned Beaver review.

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antnield
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#23 Post by antnield » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:38 pm

More info, including full list of short movies, now up on the MovieMail listing
This volume also boasts two newly commissioned scores by Saint Etienne who give Designed in Britain (1959) and Design for Today (1965) a contemporary music make-over as an alternative to the original soundtracks by Ken Moule and Johnny Scott.

Contents:

Disc 1 - Designing Women (MacDougall, 1947), Designed in Britain (Napier-Bell, 1959), Brief City (Harvey & Brunius, 1953), Design for Today (Hudson), This Week in Britain 615: The National Theatre (1970), The Pacemakers: Basil Spence and Insight: Terence Conran (Greenaway, 1981).

Disc 2 - Sixty Years of Fashion (Napier-Bell), Mini Skirts Make Money, The Pacemakers: Biba, The Country Look, This Week in Britain 750: Men's Fashions (1973), 24 Hours: Men's Fashion (Spanish Version), This Week in Britain 791: Mary Quant Show, This Week in Britain 1111: Saville Row, Insight: Zandra Rhodes (Greenaway, 1981) and A Woman's Place: Image Makers (Bentley).

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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#24 Post by MichaelB » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:58 pm

The Times (as in the venerable British newspaper, not DVD Times) on Police and Thieves.

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MichaelB
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Re: The C.O.I. Collection

#25 Post by MichaelB » Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:21 pm

Full specs announced for volume 2:
The COI Collection – Films from Britain

Volume Two: Design for Today


The second volume in the new BFI DVD series of rare and fascinating historical documentary films made by the Central Office of Information. Featuring new music by Saint Etienne.

Disc one in this two-disc set focuses on architecture, household design and industrial design. Highlights include: Designing Women (1948) in which Joyce Grenfell takes us through the dos and don’ts of home furnishing; Brief City (1952), which shows modernist architecture and design on show at the Festival of Britain; Design for Today (1965), Hugh Hudson’s day-in-the-life of British design, and Peter Greenaway’s Insight: Terence Conran (1981), showing Conran at the height of his success.

Two films feature specially-commissioned scores by electronic pop band Saint Etienne. They give Designed in Britain (1959) and Design for Today a contemporary music make- over. Both films, with original scores, are included.

Disc two looks at fashion, from mini-skirts to Savile Row tailoring. Among the films are Insight: Zandra Rhodes (1981), in which Peter Greenaway and Michael Nyman team up in an early collaboration, and The Pacemakers: Biba (1970), a look at the work of Barbara Hulanicki. Also included are two fun and exuberant short pieces about 60s and 70s style – Miniskirts Make Money (1968) and The Country Look (1971).

The accompanying 25-page illustrated booklet provides comprehensive notes and essays, including Hugh Hudson’s recollections of making Design for Today.

Established in 1946, the COI was a successor to the wartime Ministry of Information and was responsible for producing thousands of films that celebrated Britain, its people and their achievements. The COI film collection is preserved by the BFI National Archive in collaboration with COI and The National Archives (TNA).

Release date: 22 March 2010

Disc One

Designing Women (1948, 23 mins)
Designed in Britain (1959, 15 mins)
Designed in Britain (1959) (Saint Etienne version)
Brief City (1952, 19 mins)
Design for Today (1965, 15 mins)
Design for Today (1965) (Saint Etienne version)
This Week in Britain 615: The National Theatre (5 mins)
The Pacemakers: Basil Spence (1973, 14 mins)
Insight: Terence Conran (1981, 14 mins)
Total running time 1 hour 40 mins

Disc Two

Sixty Years of Fashion (1960, 18 mins)
Miniskirts Make Money (1968, 3 mins)
The Pacemakers: Biba (1970, 14 mins)
The Country Look (1971, 3 mins)
This Week in Britain: Men’s Fashions (1973, 5 mins)
24 Hours: Men’s Fashions (Spanish version) (1973, 5 mins)
This Week in Britain: The Mary Quant Show (1974, 5 mins)
This Week in Britain: Savile Row (1976, 5 mins)
Insight: Zandra Rhodes (1981, 14 mins)
A Woman’s Place: The ImageMakers (1985, 30 mins)
Total running time 1 hour 35 mins

RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIVD855 / E UK / 1948 - 1985 / b&w, and colour / English, optional hard-of-hearing subtitles / 227 mins / DVD-9 x 2 / original aspect ratio 1.33:1 / Dolby Digital mono audio (320 kbps)

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