Night Mail


Action / Documentary

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 67% · 250 ratings
IMDb Rating 6.8/10 10 1460 1.5K


Top cast

720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
214.76 MB
English 2.0
24 fps
12 hr 23 min
Seeds 3
398.73 MB
English 2.0
24 fps
12 hr 23 min
Seeds 10

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Bunuel1976 7 / 10

NIGHT MAIL {Short} (Harry Watt & Basil Wright, 1936) ***

Unlike the WAR COMES TO America (1945) entry in the WHY WE FIGHT documentary series, this famed British effort in a comparable – if longer-running and, decidedly, less enthusing – cycle of "Transport" films has not stood well the test of time. I was even tempted to shave off another half-a-star to its rating, but I guess – much like a normal movie – one needs to assess such items within the context of the time in which they were made. In its case, too, one has to consider what it was attempting to do – both narratively (a depiction of the train service, often dependent on split-second timing, run at night by the Post Office throughout the United Kingdom) and technically (still, though much has been said of its adherence to the celebrated montage – generally frantic and frequently symbolic – typified by classic Soviet cinema, this is only intermittently evident here!). However, the justifiably lauded finale – edited to the rhythm of a W.H. Auden poem – remains exhilarating to watch.

For what it is worth, a certain amount of nostalgia played into this viewing – not only because we are basically watching a way-of-life that is fast approaching extinction (in the face of the technological wonders of our age), but due to the fact that my father used to work as a postman and, as a kid, I spent a good many Summer's day both at his office and on the road, observing and even helping out in the daily distribution of the local and international mail!

Reviewed by Gyran 8 / 10

Utopia, 1936-style

This film was made by the General Post Office (GPO) an organisation that has seen many manifestations and name changes since 1936. It depicts a near-utopian world populated by chirpy proletarians working through the night to sort and deliver the mail. The technology is ancient, steam trains, hand trolleys, manual sorting. Bags of unsorted letters are hung on the side of the railway line and caught by a mechanical grab as the train passes. Bags of sorted letters are similarly hung out of the train and caught in a net as it flashes by. The impression was given of extreme efficiency but I was struck by the lack of controls. If a bag missed the net, probably no-one ever noticed until it was found months later half-eaten in a field full of sheep along the railway line. The photography was excellent with lots of silhouettes against the night sky. The sound quality in the print I saw was poor but the dialogue given to the plucky workers was clunky anyway and largely not worth hearing. The voice giving the commentary had to be heard to be believed. My favourite character was the manager in a suit who wandered amiably down the train dispensing dubious advice. Some things never change. Night Mail is largely remembered today because of Benjamin Britten's and WH Auden's collaboration on the film but their contribution is limited to a brief section at the end.

Reviewed by JohnHowardReid 9 / 10

A Brilliantly Noirish Night Journey from London to Glasgow

Here, courtesy of an excellent DVD from The British Film Institute, is the real-life counterpart of "The Flying Scot". Produced by John Grierson for the General Post Office Film Unit, brilliantly directed by Harry Watt and Basil Wright, "Night Mail" is a short account (25 minutes) of the special train – literally a traveling post office – that made a 365 nights-a-year journey from Euston station in London to Glasgow in Scotland in the 1930s and beyond. (The film was released by Associated British in 1936). With carriages staffed by the real mail sorters, it's impossible to separate the studio material from actuality. The only giveaways are the snatches of dialogue which have obviously been post-synced by professionals under the direction of Alberto Cavalcanti. True, in almost all cases, the directors have taken great care to cleverly obscure the mouths of the workers, but their accents are undoubtedly those of actors akin to the credited off-camera commentators, Stuart Legg and John Grierson himself.

Many people have praised the Benjamin Britten score and the brief poem by W.H. Auden, but for me, the chief joys of the film lay in the cinematography by Chick Fowle and Jonah Jones. Just about the whole movie was shot at night as the train speeds through unusually bleak, blighted landscapes, which give this film a distinctive, noirish quality that is reinforced by the smelters, mills and smoke-stacks of Scotland's dismally sterile, impersonal and uninviting factory towns.

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