6.7/10
1,218
12 user 6 critic

Night Mail (1936)

Approved | | Short, Documentary | 1939 (Sweden)
Shows the special train on which mail is sorted, dropped and collected on the run, and delivered in Scotland overnight.

Directors:

Harry Watt, Basil Wright

Writers:

W.H. Auden, Hugh Westman (as Baron Westman Kenneth Westman)
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Photos

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Cast

Credited cast:
Arthur Clark Arthur Clark ... Engineer
John Grierson ... Commentary
Stuart Legg Stuart Legg ... Commentary
Robert Rae Robert Rae ... Senior Driver - LMS Railway
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Storyline

Shows the special train on which mail is sorted, dropped and collected on the run, and delivered in Scotland overnight.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Documentary

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was shown on the British TV channel 'Talking Pictures' on 18th December 2018 and immediately prior to the start, the channel showed a card informing viewers that it had classified the film as 'PG' even though the BBFC had given it a U certificate (without cuts) as long ago as 1936. The reason for this is unclear. The actual BBFC 'U' certificate from 1936 was then shown on the screen, a very rare occurrence for any British TV channel. See more »

Quotes

Commentary: [Reciting W.H. Auden poem] This is the Night Mail crossing the Border, Bringing the cheque and the postal order, Letters for the rich, letters for the poor, The shop at the corner, the girl next door. Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb: The gradient's against her, but she's on time...
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Connections

Featured in Britain Through a Lens - The Documentary Film Mob (2011) See more »

User Reviews

 
One of the most important documentaries to ever come out of Britain
23 August 2011 | by tomgillespie2002See all my reviews

From 1933, the GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit produced many documentaries, inspired by the likes of Nanook of the North, to promote their service. The films had many talented British film-makers working for them, including the likes of Basil Wright and Alberto Cavalcanti (both on the production team here), and have recently been released in three DVD collector's editions by the British Film Institute. As well as producing some damn fine films, they are key works in understanding the mentality and living conditions of a Britain long gone, when we took pride in our work. They are both uplifting in their detail and wholly depressing given the state of Britain today. I'm only 27 and feel this way, so God knows what the old folk must think.

Night Mail follows the midnight postal train from London to Scotland, looking at various things such as the sorting room, the loading of the train, and the inspired way of collecting mail from various places by catching the bags at high speeds in a retracting net. The last ten minutes features a now famous poem by W.H. Auden, read to the music of Benjamin Britten, that is read rhythmically to the sounds of the train. Starting slow, it gradually picks up pace as the train gets faster, and ends at a breathless pace.

Finishing at around the 30 minute mark, it leaves a great impression regardless of its slight running time. As mentioned before, it manages to capture the spirit of old Britain, and of a time when our public services were actually efficient. Now, the Post Office seems to lose more mail than it delivers, and if you're lucky to catch a train that arrives on time, you have the pleasure in sitting near some gormless scumbag listening to his s**t dance music out loud, or some lazy fat single mother who won't deal with their screaming baby. But anyway, the quality of the film-making is often overwhelming for a documentary short, using interesting camera angles, lovely cinematography, and informative narration. I was surprised to see that the average user rating for this on IMDb is 6.8, considering this is one of the best, and most important documentaries to come out Britain. Ever.

www.the-wrath-of-blog.blogspot.com


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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

1939 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Courrier de nuit See more »

Filming Locations:

Crewe, Cheshire, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Visatone Marconi)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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