Harry Watt & Basil Wright – Night Mail (1936)



Made in 1936 NIGHTMAIL has become an icon of the British documentary movement. The budget was only £2,000 and the film was made as a promotional film for the Post Office services. The GPO film unit deserves a posthumous Oscar.

The quality of directing, lighting and camera work in this documentary beats that of many of today’s films and brings an almost Hitchcockian atmosphere and tension to the screen.
This is the story of the Travelling Post office from Euston station in London to Glasgow in Scotland, in the days when the railways were efficient, frequent and run by proud workers who wore waistcoats, ties and hats and spoke politely to one another like the team that they were. It is surprising how old the men all seem now, in these days of youth culture, gentle character-full faces bearing no guile, tired and lined but proud and honest. Continue reading

Harry Watt – West of Zanzibar (1954)

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Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson

No relation to the 1928 Lon Chaney vehicle of the same name, the British West of Zanzibar was filmed on location in East Africa. Game ranger Bob Payton (Anthony Steel) makes it his mission in life to capture the head of a vicious ivory-smuggling racket. Payton tracks his quarry through some of the most treacherous passages of the Zanzibar territory. Despite such obstacles as crocodiles and rhinos, Steel finally corners the villain, who turns out to be. . . Well, the ending needn’t be spoiled here. The most fascinating aspect of West of Zanzibar is its accuracy in depicting native customs and values. Continue reading