Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Painted Boats

For years this Charles Crichton film for Ealing was rumoured to be lost or known only in a damaged version, but it has recently been released on DVD and now LoveFilm has sent it to me.

Painted Boats was released in 1945 and is as much a documentary as a drama. The schoolmasterly commentary, written Louis MacNeice, recalls many films in that genre from the 1930s.

The cast contains stalwarts of the era like Megs Jenkins and Harry Fowler, but the two principals, in as far as the film has any, are less well known. Robert Griffiths hardly appeared in another film (and you can see why); Jenny Laird enjoyed a longer career and even turned up in 1990 in 1978.

But what makes Painted Boats worth watching today is the wonderful photography by Douglas Slocombe. The canal system of the era is brought to life in wonderful black and white photography that is both stunningly beautiful and a unique historical record.

Given the popularity of the canals for leisure today, it is astounding that this film is not better known. Shoestring has a page with many stills and discussed the different locations where the film was shot - notably Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, now the home of the National Waterways Museum.

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