Not only does Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930-1950 (BFI) •••• provide fascinating insights into a bygone age, this four-disc collection of 40 films totalling 13 hours of viewing also showcases the groundbreaking talent of the nation’s finest documentarians, Robert Flaherty, Humphrey Jennings and Paul Rotha among them. Life before, during and after wartime is captured using every technique from propaganda to poetry. Extras include an accompanying booklet and filmmaker interviews.
You don’t have to be a trainspotter to enjoy The Age of the Train: The British Transport Films Collection Volume 7 (BFI) •••• , although enthusiasts are in for an extra special treat with this beautifully designed double-disc pack containing over four hours of documentaries and public service films made between 1962 and 1982 during the ‘corporate blue’ era of British Rail. Short films such as Right Time Means Right Time and Inter-City 125 make one wistful about the good old pre-privatisation days of train travel. Now that’s enter-train-ment!
The five-disc Screen Icons: David Niven (Optimum) ••• collects an assortment of the debonair British actor’s lesser-known films. The exception is the oft-seen and still enjoyable 1948 historical romp Bonnie Prince Charlie, which casts the quintessential Englishman as the rebellious 18th century Scottish nobleman. Elsewhere, Niven turns up in Edinburgh as a greetings card millionaire who falls for a chorus girl in the 1951 musical rom-com Happy Go Lovely, on stage as an elusive lover and magician in 1939’s Eternally Yours, as a scheming cad abroad in Ireland in 1954’s Happy Ever After, and, most interestingly, as a British movie star in Charles Crichton’s 1954 satire The Love Lottery (pictured). No extras, but the films are restored and make their DVD debut.
A definitive Laurel and Hardy collection has already been released on DVD, but the four boxed sets in Laurel and Hardy: The Collection (Universal) ••• are a welcome reminder of Stan and Ollie’s comic prowess. Much-loved classics such as Sons of the Desert and Way Out West are mixed with similarly themed shorts, but there’s not much in the way of extras aside from dreadful colourised versions.