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Beside the Seaside presents a beguiling picture of summer pleasures in UK during the 1930's. Snippets of dialogue convey the diversity of seaside visitors and present the absorbing oddity of overheard conversation.
This is the kind of film that would probably have bored the pants off most people back when it was made but which, as it grows older and there are fewer people alive who remember Britain's post-war austerity years, becomes an increasingly valuable social document. Even if it is still a bit dull.
The film follows the adventures of a group of workers from a Leicester shoe-making company who travel down south for a day in the Smoke. Most of the gents wear suits and ties, and the women seem old before their time, and they all manage to avoid staring at the camera too often as it records their special day. They pretty much do the same kind of thing tourists will do today, visiting Hampton Court after a boat ride down the river, lunch at a moderately swanky restaurant (ok, that would probably be McDonalds today), a visit to the West End in the evening. In this London, the streets are only half-full and there isn't a recognisably foreign face or backpack in site.
The film is narrated by two men: a professional reporter and the factory manager who organised the trip and must make sure nobody wanders off in the wrong direction, thus messing up his meticulously planned timetable. He certainly frets over this, and it's only when everyone is let loose to explore the city on their own for a few hours that he can finally relax. You get the impression the professional reporter wrote the words for both of them, and as this film was made by British Transport little time is devoted to how this momentary escape to the spurious glamour of the Big City compares to the daily grind of life in a Northen (well, East Midlands) town.
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