Collecting The Obsolete


I have a terrifying film collection, cobbled together over a quarter of a century of working in the film business, including hundreds of rarities and a lot of very obscure British movies, and now it’s all obsolete. Or is it?

With the swapping of DVDs for Blu-rays a collectors’ market has been created. But most of the films in my collection will never make it to any other format because they’re far too obscure. Grabbing a box of British films from the shelf I find;

What The Butler Saw

Our Miss Fred

Mister Ten Per Cent

Lock Up Your Daughters

Plunkett & Macleane

Queen of Hearts

The Punch and Judy Man

The Smallest Show on Earth

Sparrows Can’t Sing

The Story of Gilbert & Sullivan

Miss Robin Hood


House of Whipcord

Where’s Jack?

The Yellow Balloon

This is not a normal film collection, I realise. It’s 30% Hollywood, 30% British, 30% World and 10% unclassifiable (Making A Splash, Short & Curlies, rough cuts and longer edits etc) I fear that if I ditch any of these films they will simply cease to exist outside of the BFI archives.

And as I get older I’m drawn (as we all are) to the formative films of my youth but also to the films my parents saw.

The losers in this are British films, whose visibility vanishes more each day. Try searching online for ‘Queen of Hearts’ and you’ll find Tim Burton and some Hollywood movie, but not Jon Amiel’s delightful romance. An audio-visual expert recently suggested ‘we will look back on streaming services and ridicule them for being so primitive’, so as formats continue to evolve I’m clinging to the physical copies I have. They could come in handy.

13 comments on “Collecting The Obsolete”

  1. SteveB says:

    I think House of Whipcord (Pete Walker has a cult following) may already be on Bluray. Yellow Balloon is due for 2020 I believe. Maybe Sparrows cant sing also.
    By the way Green for Danger comes out on Bluray in a few weeks.

  2. Ian Luck says:

    I’m not impressed by blu-ray. It seems to be a classic marketing scam: ‘There’s so much more room for information on the disc! More room for added content!’ (The ‘extras’ that hardly anyone ever looks at). We have some blu-rays at home – I own one, and that is a Gerry Anderson promo not available on any other format. My brother has one film that he ‘upgraded’ to blu-ray, and frankly, the DVD version is better in every respect. I still buy music on vinyl, tape, and CD. I refuse to buy downloads – I prefer to read the sleeve notes on a physical object. I shall, in a few weeks, be taking delivery of the soundtrack to the TV show ‘UFO’ on double purple vinyl. I’m very much looking forward to it.

  3. Peter Tromans says:

    Old can come back. Vinyl is the great example. I can’t hear the supposed superiority of analogue over digital (or thermionic valve over transistor), but always regretted the loss of the LP cover with its artwork and blurb.

  4. David says:

    I’d swap Fassbinder’s Lili Marleen on VHS for Terrence Donovan’s Yellow Dog on anything.

  5. snowy says:

    David, would the back of your eyeballs count?

    The BFI have a viewing copy and they will apparently let you sit and watch it on-site if you are prepared to go through the rigmarole of booking a viewing and turning up in person, [plus forking over £22.]

  6. David says:

    Snowy, thanks for that, I’ll look into it, might be just the thing to take my mind of the present goings on over the river in Westminster. I had been in touch with Donovan’s widow (Diana ?) who runs his archive/trust, and even they don’t have a copy of the film. It was shown on TV decades ago and I did make a copy on a betamax machine at the time, but both the machine and the tape are long gone.

  7. snowy says:

    This is part of the BFI info, there is lots more on the website, though it’s a bit non-intuative and trickly to use.

    Yellow Dog (Original title)
    Secret Mission London (Alternative title)
    Film / Video
    Materials held in the BFI National Archive

    Accessible materials to view (1)

    VHS cassette – Video – 97.24 minutes – 625 – PAL – – C-1174739
    Viewing – Videotape can be requested for access

    Digital materials (1)

    MOV – Uncompressed – – N-3651001
    Master – Restricted access to preserved digital file

    Video materials (2)

    Digital Betacam – Video – 97.24 minutes – 625 – PAL – – C-1174738
    Status pending – Material requires inspection to determine preservation or access status

    VHS cassette – Video – 97.24 minutes – 625 – PAL – – C-1174739
    Viewing – Videotape can be requested for access

    Film materials (16)

    ……. EDIT

    35mm Colour Positive – CTA – Combined – 9112 Feet – Stock date: 1973 – – C-198703
    Master – Restricted access to preserved film

    ……. EDIT


    The BBFC have no record of re-rating it for video distribution, so it is unlikely there was an official UK video release. It doesn’t mean that it was never released on video/DVD in Japan/Italy/Germany etc.

  8. Wayne Mook says:

    Network have a lot of odd things on DVD and blu-ray, The Smallest Show on Earth is on Blu-ray there. They have also a lot of TV series, not all of them good. From UFO complete series to C15: The New Professionals (the one with Edward Woodward, plus the old series) and Romany Jones (by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe the forgotten writing partnership of the 60s & 70s who did Hammer’s biggest grossing film of the 70’s.)

    They have The Four Feathers with Ralph Richardson, the Karloff title The Ghoul, due out on the 30th of Sept is the dvd & blu-ray of The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man; Green for Danger is due 28th Oct from the same place.

    It’s an odd array of old and new (Trudie Styler’s Freak Show from 2017 is there), I picked up The Strange World of Gurney Slade, a very odd 60’s TV series, but sadly only on dvd.


  9. Brian Evans says:

    I have most of these in my collection, though the “Queen of Hearts” I have is the Gracie Fields version. I would kill for copies of “The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan” and “Lock Up Your Daughters”

    I find something oddly endearing about “Our Miss Fred” which I first saw at the ABC Edgeware Road. A cinema much missed by me. It never got the tripling makeover.

    Years ago I recorded many films from TV to video, which I later transferred to DVD. Now they are all on hard drives-although the quality is variable. One of the rarest I have is the “Watch it Sailor”-the sequel to “Sailor Beware”

    Over the last few years many of the dreaded 1930s so called “Quota Quickies” have been released and there is not one I haven’t enjoyed. They are all better than they were ever given for. Two standouts are “Cheer Up” a musical starring the long forgotten Stanley Lupino and a brilliantly edited railway themed picture “The Last Journey”

    There have also been many of the “Killer B’s” of the 50s and 60s and have I found most of these to be very entertaining at the very least.

  10. Brian Evans says:

    I must learn to check what I have written before I post and not after. It should read …were ever given credit for.

  11. Helen Martin says:

    Wonder if Stanley Lupino is related to Ida of the same, although it’s possibly a common surname.
    Of course I will now search out The Last Journey.

  12. Brian Evans says:

    Yes Helen, but I’m not sure how. Perhaps his niece. There was another one at least-Lupino Lane who starred in the original “Me and My girl” west end musical in about 1938/39. It’s the one where “The Lambeth Walk” comes from.

    “The Last Journey” is available on DVD. It runs for about 65 minutes. The first 10 mins are a bit slow, then it comes to life with a cracking pace. Please let me know what you think about it. I would value your opinion.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    Now I have the Lambeth Walk running in my head. What a strange connection. There are entertainment families that we often forget about.
    I have tried both Burnaby and Vancouver libraries but neither has the Last Journey. It sounded interesting enough to make it worth while buying a copy. I’ll see what I can do.

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