By Pat Jackson
This memoir is an strange contribution to the historical past of movie and cinema. At its centre is the tale of the making of the British movie vintage Western techniques, the 1st tale documentary in Technicolor, completely enacted via amateurs. It used to be nominated for the easiest movie from any resource Oscar.
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Additional info for A Retake Please!: Night Mail to Western Approaches
Certainly, I never saw Harry refer to it. He just went out and shot the ﬁlm, sequence by sequence, by guess and by God, hoping for the best. If Basil Wright, who had initially researched the subject and had fully developed those action sequences into shooting script form as he could easily have done, for he and I had seen ﬁrst-hand the process at work—if he had fully appreciated the visual ingredients, he would have discovered the value of a dramatic presentation and sensed the power of suspense, and he would have used these weapons in his later work.
Cuts to the instructor. Back to the trainee’s ﬁngers: 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. ‘Now’, shouts the instructor. Down goes the arm. The ground net sweeps it away. The train’s net is lowered; ahead are the hanging pouches. Shooting through the mesh of the waiting net, we see the pouches gathered and swept on to the ﬂoor of the van. It all worked splendidly. The visuals were safely in the can. The men came down to the studio, we recorded their voices and they ﬁtted the picture very well. Nobody would know that their voices had been laid on afterwards.
The ﬁrst bridge passes and soon after the second. Harry comes into close shot as the trainee starts to count beats of the wheels. He cuts to the trainee’s ﬁngers beating on the man’s chest. Cuts to the instructor. Back to the trainee’s ﬁngers: 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. ‘Now’, shouts the instructor. Down goes the arm. The ground net sweeps it away. The train’s net is lowered; ahead are the hanging pouches. Shooting through the mesh of the waiting net, we see the pouches gathered and swept on to the ﬂoor of the van.
A Retake Please!: Night Mail to Western Approaches by Pat Jackson