Shadows of Progress

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by the BFI and the films on them.

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Shadows of Progress

#76 Post by zedz » Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:40 pm

I finally finished working my way through this set last week, and I can't recommend it highly enough. As intended, it's a superb work of scholarship that effectively rewrites the history of post-war British cinema.

Given the price it's been of late, can you afford not to get it?

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bugsy_pal
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#77 Post by bugsy_pal » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:36 am

Is this set still in print? It hasn't been on Amazon for a while. Being outside the UK, Amazon is by far my most preferred online supplier for UK discs (apart from Eureka Video who do their own online selling).

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knives
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#78 Post by knives » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:41 am

It's very much so still in print. Don't know what's wrong with Amazon on it.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#79 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:47 am

You can get it from Zavvi/TheHut, which is pretty reliable- they don't take VAT out, but they do give you free worldwide shipping.

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MichaelB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#80 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jul 04, 2011 3:57 am

It is 100% definitely still in print - it only came out last November!

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bugsy_pal
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#81 Post by bugsy_pal » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:46 am

Thanks guys - I was about to order it from Zavvi, as I noticed they offer PayPal now. Then I saw that it was back on Amazon. I just ordered it for the crazy price of 7.44 UK Pounds (that's minus VAT) with free delivery to Oz. I'm stoked!

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MichaelB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#82 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:51 am

I bet you are - that's an unbelievable bargain for what you're getting!

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GaryC
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#83 Post by GaryC » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:05 pm

MichaelB wrote:I bet you are - that's an unbelievable bargain for what you're getting!
Unfortunately it's not that price on Amazon any more...

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bugsy_pal
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#84 Post by bugsy_pal » Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:51 pm

I was obviously lucky - I don't know why or how they sell it at that price, but they got a sale out of me so I guess that's a good thing. I am very much looking forward to this set, having read so many good things about it. The companion book looks pretty interesting too - perhaps that'll be next.

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knives
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#85 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 6:00 pm

I know it's wrong to make light of terrorism and the images at the end are truly frightening, but Time Of Terror is a tad funny in it's reactionary fear mongering. Actually it's a compliment to the film makers that even with all this silly propaganda it's still a very strong and in many ways good film.

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MichaelB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#86 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 21, 2011 6:56 pm

knives wrote:I know it's wrong to make light of terrorism and the images at the end are truly frightening, but Time Of Terror is a tad funny in it's reactionary fear mongering. Actually it's a compliment to the film makers that even with all this silly propaganda it's still a very strong and in many ways good film.
Can I hazard a guess that you know little or nothing about the events that inspired the film? Because if you did, I doubt you'd use phrases as glib as "a tad funny" or "silly propaganda".

Time of Terror was made in direct response to what was then an unprecedented terror campaign being waged on the British mainland by Irish Republicans, most notoriously via the pub bombs in Guildford (five dead, 65 injured) and Birmingham (21 dead, 182 injured) shortly before the film was made, as well as numerous individual cases of murder or serious injury via car bombs, letter bombs, shootings and the like. That kind of toll was pretty much unknown outside wartime (you can see here how deaths directly attributable to 'the Troubles' in Northern Ireland reached horrific levels in the early-to-mid 1970s, with the 1972-75 period alone accounting for more than a thousand), and left British security services floundering at first - which is why the Metropolitan Police commissioned the film in the first place.

Far from being "propaganda" or "reactionary fear mongering", the film seems to me to be remarkably apolitical and even-handed, especially given the wave of anti-Irish sentiment that was sweeping the country at the time - so much so that merely having an Irish accent in Birmingham was more or less an invitation to get beaten up. In fact, if I remember rightly, the film mentions Irish republicanism just once (as part of a list of terrorist causes), and the vast majority consists of practical instructions that are anything but "silly". They reminded me vividly of growing up in the 1970s and 80s as the son of a man whose profession and family connections made him a potential IRA target, and who would therefore have to check under his car every single time he wanted to drive it. The police took the threat seriously enough to give him a contraption essentially consisting of an angled mirror on the end of a stick, to make examining the underside easier - and I myself was within the blast radius of three genuine IRA bombs between the early 1980s and the late 1990s (all thankfully spotted and defused).

As for the psychological profile of a typical terrorist, it seems to me to be spot on, and not just in the context of the campaigns being waged at the time. In fact, if you remove the obviously shot-in-1975 visuals and concentrate on the content of the commentary, it's dated remarkably little:
Terrorists are anyone and anywhere. Some are under observation. Others we have yet to hear about, possibly from you. They will tend to be young and keep to themselves, mixing little. Women often act as couriers and cover. They rent flats and single rooms, asking few questions and wanting few questions asked. They choose accommodation in areas where their nationality and accent merge easily. They will hire, steal or purchase cheap, common makes of motor-car, but also like to live near the Underground system, which enables them to transport bombs in the anonymity of crowds. They may not work regularly - indeed, they may often live off the very society which they wish to destroy.
Just about the only part of that passage that betrays its age is the use of the term "motor-car". Otherwise, it could have been scripted at the time of the Tube bombings in 2005 (52 dead, over 700 injured).

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knives
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#87 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 7:05 pm

I should have figured my comments would be interpreted in poor taste. I know (though unlikely as much as you) about what was going on during that time (I believe the residuals exist to this day), but the way the movie tackles the subject seems wrong to me. It comes across as warning about those long hairs who are so evil rather than looking at the complexities of the situation. No film could take in all of those complexities and I'm sure everyone involved tried the best they could which is why I'm willing to compliment the effort made even if it never went beyond fear mongering.

The film came across as a more expansive, and well filmic, version of the colour danger warnings that Bush put up. I didn't mean to belittle the actual incidents of deplorable violence and was only speaking of the film as a propaganda piece in which case it is fear mongering. None of what I said was intended to look at what the film was made for, but rather it's presentation which is simple minded.

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MichaelB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#88 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 21, 2011 7:29 pm

knives wrote:I should have figured my comments would be interpreted in poor taste. I know (though unlikely as much as you) about what was going on during that time (I believe the residuals exist to this day), but the way the movie tackles the subject seems wrong to me. It comes across as warning about those long hairs who are so evil rather than looking at the complexities of the situation. No film could take in all of those complexities and I'm sure everyone involved tried the best they could which is why I'm willing to compliment the effort made even if it never went beyond fear mongering.
There's nothing in the film that could fairly be interpreted as "warning about those long hairs who are so evil". In fact, aside from making the factually accurate point that a typical terrorist will probably be young, it bends over backwards to avoid resorting to superficial labels or crude caricature - which would have been counterproductive given that the IRA was by no means the only high-profile terrorist group active in Europe in the mid-1970s (the heyday of Carlos the Jackal, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the Red Brigades, etc.).
The film came across as a more expansive, and well filmic, version of the colour danger warnings that Bush put up. I didn't mean to belittle the actual incidents of deplorable violence and was only speaking of the film as a propaganda piece in which case it is fear mongering. None of what I said was intended to look at what the film was made for, but rather it's presentation which is simple minded.
It's practical rather than "simple minded" and "fear mongering".

The film was originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Police for internal use only - in fact, I'm pretty sure its inclusion in Shadows of Progress marks its public debut. As such, you wouldn't expect a complex political analysis of the root causes of terrorism, because that wouldn't have fitted the brief of a film whose primary purpose was to offer advice on how to be vigilant about what was then a demonstrably real, serious and largely brand new threat (Irish republican terrorism had been a significant issue since the late 1960s, but the attacks on the British mainland were a much more recent development), whose annual body count had reached alarming levels, which wouldn't start to fall until about two years after the film was made.

You keep using the word "propaganda", but can you cite a clear and unambiguous instance in the film that actually merits that label? It seems to me that Eric Marquis was actually going to considerable lengths to avoid accusations of propaganda, largely by stressing the practical over the political.

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MichaelB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#89 Post by MichaelB » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:25 am

A lengthy, not uncritical, but broadly sympathetic review of Shadows of Progress - the 448-page book that was written in parallel with the development of the DVD collection.
No other book of this scale has been published on the specific topic of British film documentary history in the post-war period, and thanks to its publication there now exists an accessible resource that can both define an area of documentary production, and provide the basis for further study. In turn this is something of a display piece for the BFI’s curatorial team, with no less than five of the authors credited as non-fiction curators of the BFI’s collection. If compelling evidence were ever needed of the value provided by the modest funding that pays for the BFI’s curatorial services, this book provides it.

djvaso
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#90 Post by djvaso » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:42 pm

There are re-releases of this and Land of Promise with thinner booklets. I wonder if they dropped any content from previous ones. Could anyone list the contents of the booklets?
Thanks in advance.

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RobertB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#91 Post by RobertB » Thu Aug 07, 2014 5:38 pm

I absolutely love this set. I wish it was on blu-ray, but the picture is as good as it can be on DVD. The films are both interesting and artistic, and I like the range of subjects and the time it covers (1950s-to 1970s). But what do I get next? I'm trying to get a nice selection of BFI documentaries collections for some nice weekend viewing. Maybe one of the COI sets (volume 1 or 4?), maybe one of the Transport Film collections (1 or 5?), and perhaps Tales from the Shipyard. Any suggestions? There is just too much to choose from!

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MichaelB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#92 Post by MichaelB » Fri Aug 08, 2014 5:24 am

Steel is my favourite of the industrial-film sets.

And it was fascinating re-reading that thread, because it charts an abortive Kickstarter campaign to fund the restoration of a Jack Cardiff-shot film of that title - which raised something like 2% of the intended funds. I'd honestly completely forgotten that project when Arrow embarked on its own, vastly more successful Kickstarter - but in retrospect it's easy to see what Arrow did right and what the BFI did wrong.

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RobertB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#93 Post by RobertB » Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:00 pm

Thank you Michael. Steel on order, and COI volume 4 + Children's Film Foundation: Runaways. I hope BFI one day make a few blu-ray discs of the best films and short subjects they are digging up from the vaults. It's a fascinating alternative British film history.

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DeprongMori
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#94 Post by DeprongMori » Fri May 24, 2019 10:07 pm

It’s been highly educational reading through all the posts on these sets. BFI just announced a Bank Holiday Box Set Sale, so I’ve taken the opportunity to pick up both Land of Promise and Shadows of Progress (among others). I’m sorry to hear that the booklets have been scaled down. The earlier descriptions made them sound essential. Does anyone know what has been dropped from the booklets?

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Luke M
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 9:21 pm

Re: Shadows of Progress

#95 Post by Luke M » Sat May 25, 2019 2:06 pm

Thanks for the heads up. Finally pulled the trigger on the Herzog set.

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