The sound recordists equipment was unable to record a realistic sound of the mail train clattering over the joints in the track during the "two bridges and 45 beats" trackside mailbag collection sequence. Eventually they resorted to recording the sound of a model train being pushed back and forth over joints in a model railway track in time to the film of the man on the train counting the beats. See more »
This film was made by the General Post Office (GPO) an organisation that has seen many manifestations and name changes since 1936. It depicts a near-utopian world populated by chirpy proletarians working through the night to sort and deliver the mail. The technology is ancient, steam trains, hand trolleys, manual sorting. Bags of unsorted letters are hung on the side of the railway line and caught by a mechanical grab as the train passes. Bags of sorted letters are similarly hung out of the train and caught in a net as it flashes by. The impression was given of extreme efficiency but I was struck by the lack of controls. If a bag missed the net, probably no-one ever noticed until it was found months later half-eaten in a field full of sheep along the railway line. The photography was excellent with lots of silhouettes against the night sky. The sound quality in the print I saw was poor but the dialogue given to the plucky workers was clunky anyway and largely not worth hearing. The voice giving the commentary had to be heard to be believed. My favourite character was the manager in a suit who wandered amiably down the train dispensing dubious advice. Some things never change. Night Mail is largely remembered today because of Benjamin Britten's and WH Auden's collaboration on the film but their contribution is limited to a brief section at the end.
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