Thursday, 14 October 2021  |  Admin

The question “Who owns the land?” lies at the heart of writer John McGrath’s classic 1973 play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil. But to appreciate the remarkable sense of political power and urgency with which this work poses that query, we might also ask ourselves who or what owns the play. After all, the cast of director John Mackenzie’s 1974 BBC TV adaptation includes both professional actors and hourly-paid oil riggers; historical reconstruction rubs shoulders with contemporary documentary interview; human tragedy and brutality alternates with music hall vitality and hilarity; a performance that talks about the past also has a lot to say about the present. At the levels of content and form alike, The Cheviot has a strong claim to be the most provocative, intelligent and enjoyable screen representation of post-1746 Highland history ever made.

Saturday, 9 October 2021  |  Admin

Many years ago I purchased from the United States a VHS video starring my favourite Western actor Randolph Scott. The title was Abilene Town, made in 1946, but sadly the picture quality was very poor, scratched, dark and worn, probably from a 16 mm library print, but the performances of Scott and his co-star, another childhood favourite Rhonda Fleming in her first Western, were brilliant.

After some research I discovered that the producing company, Jules Levey had closed down in the late 1940s. More research uncovered the original camera negatives and I had a high definition transfer produced from a 35 mm fine grain print made from these negatives.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021  |  Admin

The Brave Don't Cry (1952), a reconstruction of the mining disaster at Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery Ayrshire in 1950, dramatises the tense events of the rescue of miners trapped underground after a pit shaft was flooded and nine men were lost.

In September 1950, the walls of Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery cave in under a sudden surge of water, trapping 118 men underground. The only escape route is through a series of abandoned tunnels filled with toxic gas. Without enough time to pump out the gas, a dangerous rescue plan is formed by mine inspector John Cameron (John Gregson) and miner's wife Margaret Wishart (Meg Buchanan). With limited breathing equipment on hand, the miners must make their way up to the surface three at a time. The film features actors from the Glasgow Citizen's Theatre. The film was premiered under its new title at the Edinburgh Film Festival in August 1952, and also shown at the Venice Film Festival that year.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021  |  Admin

Venus Peter was chosen for the "Un Certain Regard" showings at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989. Young Peter's world is populated with magical thoughts and fantasies, as he grows up with his wise, old grandfather (Ray McAnally), a fisherman, in the Orkney Islands during the 1950s. Based on the novel A Twelvemonth and a Day by Christopher Rush.

Saturday, 14 August 2021  |  Admin

As the curtain fell under the shadow of war at the end of a wonderful season at Covent Garden, the London Philharmonic Orchestra faced up to voluntary liquidation. At a liquidation meeting held at the Holborn Restaurant in September 1939, a fortnight after the outbreak of war, Sir Thomas Beecham explained that there was no funding to pay the players’ fees or creditors, but the players, led by Thomas Russell, pledged to keep the Orchestra together and manage it themselves. With the blessing of Sir Thomas, the musicians formed a new company with themselves as shareholders and elected a Board of Directors. (Beecham does not appear in the re-enactment of the meeting in the film, as he had departed for  the United States in 1940.) Viola player Thomas Russell became Secretary and Business Manager of the new company and they resolved to promote the Orchestra themselves and to seek their own engagements. I first learned about this film from archivist David Meeker who had worked with the British Film Institute.

Monday, 9 August 2021  |  Admin

Shortly after I produced a DVD of 24 Square Miles, directed by Kay Mander, I was approached by a film student, Adele Carroll, who had met Kay and produced a 45 minute documentary, One Continuous Take about her life and work. A long while after, and following almost 12 months of research, and sometimes agonising negotiations with half a dozen film archives, I produced One Continuous Take - The Kay Mander Filmbook, a 2-disc retrospective of Kay's life and work.

Friday, 6 August 2021  |  Admin

The establishment of the British Documentary Movement in the 1930s, led by John Grierson at the GPO Film Unit, showed the importance of film for communicating with the general public for whom a weekly visit to the cinema was a "must" for many families.

Grierson's reputation as a factual film maker, was further recognised in his native Scotland when he was asked by the fledgling Films of Scotland Committee, set up by the Scottish Office, to oversee the production of a series of films for the Empire Exhibition to be hosted by Glasgow in 1938.

Sunday, 25 July 2021  |  Admin

In response to a request for a film that showed the importance of balloon barrage, Harry Watt, who worked on Night Mail made this compelling drama-documentary about the training of a balloon squadron and its first assignment to South Queensferry after an unsuccessful raid on Rosyth Naval Base near the Forth Bridge in October 1939. The raid by the Luftwaffe, with Heinkel 111 high level aircraft equipped with cameras for tactical reconnaissance sorties, and Junkers JU88A-1 dive bombers is often thought to have been an attempt to destroy the Forth Bridge. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Germany would have needed the bridge in the event of a successful invasion. The real target was H.M.S. Hood which had been at Rosyth Naval Base for a re-fit. Thankfully German intelligence was out of date as the Hood had departed some three weeks earlier.

Thursday, 22 July 2021  |  Admin

Sir Harry Lauder in a Series of his World Famous Songs (1931, b/w). Sir Harry Lauder on stage singing several of his most popular songs, including "Keep Right on to the end of the Road", with comic routines. The Glasgow Orpheus Choir (1951, b/w). Sir Hugh Roberton conducts the Glasgow Orpheus Choir in their first screen concert as they sing various Scottish songs. Filmed in London eight days before the Choir's final broadcast and disbandment on 25th June, 1951.  . . . and more . . .

Thursday, 22 July 2021  |  Admin

The Highlands and Islands Medical Service was established in 1913 by the Liberal government, following recommendations by the Dewar Commission’s report on healthcare in Scotland’s isolated crofting and fishing communities. World War One delayed full implementation of the plan but by the 1930s affordable medical treatment was available to many remote areas of the country with funding extended to build hospitals and create an air ambulance service. Highland Doctor describes how important the service is while promoting the idea of a nationalised health service for the whole of Britain, predating the establishment of the NHS by five years. It was seen by a wide audience of people, particularly in rural areas, where it was screened in community halls, schools and factories by government mobile film units.

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