Today: July 16, 2024

The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection

For three decades, Ealing Studios was a byword for quintessentially British cinema, that was a cherished and significant part of this country’s home-grown film industry. However, the studio’s output was more than the renowned ‘Ealing Comedies’, covering everything from romances to murder mysteries, from sitcoms to satires.

Network’s new Ealing Studios Rarities Collection features 56 films from both the Ealing and Associated Talking Pictures eras, many of which haven’t been seen since their original cinema release. These were previously issued in a series of four-film box sets—and have now been compressed into a space-saving 28-disc set.

Some of the films included may be familiar from the odd TV airing, but the bulk are genuine Rarities. The most obscure arguably date from the 1930s, when it was Basil Dean rather than the more famous Michael Balcon, who ran the studio (although the box set includes films from both eras). There’s early work from film-makers such as Carol Reed, Graham Cutts, Thorold Dickinson, and Basil Dean himself here too, alongside familiar actors at early/late stages of their careers. Look out for Margaret Lockwood, Joan Collins, Katie Johnson—decades before she starred as Mrs Wilberforce The Ladykillers—a pre-Hollywood Basil Rathbone, and a surprising appearance from the comedians Flanagan and Allen in the 1932 film, The Bailiffs. 

While every film is presented as a new transfer, in its correct aspect-ratio, some films are sadly still remnants—with scenes cut or lost to time. Some are slow, poorly realised, and heavily-laden with attitudes and language of the period. Hard-of-hearing film fans should note that there are no subtitles on any of these films–although anyone who watches modern films with subtitles to compensate for the poor sound quality, won’t have to worry about that with these older releases. However, in a box set that includes 28 discs and 56 films, it’s no surprise to learn that there are some absolute gems too. Loyalties is a hugely-effective drama that tackles anti-semitism in upper-class Britain. Penny Paradise is a very recognisable Ealing-style Comedy. Midshipman Easy is a superb boy’s own adventure starring a very young and very talented Hughie Green. The Silent Passenger is a superb mystery, and marks the first outing of Dorothy L. Sayers’ famous detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. While Arthur Wontner takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes in a rarely screened 1932 take on Doyle’s classic The Sign Of Four.

There’s always an element of voyeurism in discovering old films—in spotting the stars to-be or recognising neighbourhoods now changed beyond recognition. But the appeal of these films isn’t just curiosity. Put simply: this is a box of delights that film fans will love.

  • ESCAPE! (1930)
    A study of punitive justice: the fate of a man who has been shut up in Dartmoor Prison and socially ruined. What treatment awaits him when he turns fugitive?
    Black and White / 68 mins / 1.19:1 / Mono / English
    An African tribe must seek new pastures. Can game warden Bob Payton persuade them to choose fertile soil and peaceful living over the many temptations of the city?
    Colour / 92 mins /1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Liverpool tugboat captain Joe spends a weekly sixpence on the pools. When his first mate forgets to post the coupon as a winning line is drawn, comic chaos is the result!
    Black and White / 69 mins /1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • CHEER UP! (1936)
    Countless comic situations and spectacular dance routines punctuate a tale of two struggling composers trying to gain backing for their musical comedy.
    Black and White / 68 mins /1.33:1 / Mono / English
    In the 1790s, a group of young midshipmen set sail for the first time – little realising they are embarking on an adventure that will see them battling pirates and smugglers.
    Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • BRIEF ECSTASY (1937)
    A remarkable story of love lost and found, as a young couple are separated by circumstance, and plunged into emotional turmoil by a reunion…
    Black and White / 66 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    John Mills and Will Hay star in a wartime propaganda docu-drama showing the effects of the Allied blockade of Nazi Germany.
    Black and White / 71 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • THE FOUR JUST MEN (1939)
    The Four Just Men unearth two vital clues which point towards a dastardly plan to bring down the whole of the British Empire!
    Black and White / 81 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • CAGE OF GOLD (1950)
    A young woman finds herself cruelly duped by the hero of her schooldays and tries to find happiness in the aftermath of betrayal.
    Black and White / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    A dirt-track driver turns professional, but after stirring resentment both on and off the track he finds himself being blamed for the death of another driver.
    Black and White / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    A woman finds brief respite from the selfishness of her husband with a young doctor, but can their friendship remain platonic?
    Black and White / 1.19:1 / Mono / English
  • FRIEDA (1947)
    An airman weds the German girl who helped him escape from a PoW camp, and the pair return to England – but the arrival of her brother overshadows their happiness.
    Black and White / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    An elderly professor seeks to prove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. His claims meet with hostility, but one reporter decides to test them for himself.
    Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Googie Withers stars as a young woman who flouts convention by choosing to run the farm she inherited, and by rejecting the man she is expected to marry…
    Black and White / 85 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • BIRDS OF PREY (1930)
    A former police commissioner becomes the target of a revenge plot by two men he had helped convict years before.
    Black and White / 91 mins / 1.19:1 / Mono / English
  • DAVY (1957)
    A young music-hall entertainer aspires to stardom on his own terms, but faces a dilemma as to whether he should go it alone or stick with his family troupe.
    Colour / 79 mins / 2.35:1 / Mono / English
  • THE WARE CASE (1938)
    Spendthrift Sir Hubert enjoyed living the life of a lord – it was, after all, the only one for which he was fitted. But he ignored the entreaties of his desperate wife at his peril!
    Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • THE SHIRALEE (1957)
    A swagman (Peter Finch) looking for work in 1940s Australia suddenly finds himself carrying an extra burden – a ‘shiralee’ – in the form of his five-year-old daughter.
    Black and White / 94 mins / 1.66:1 / Mono / English
    A man ignores a warning to stay away from a sinister house on marshland near Liverpool; when someone drowns close by, he finds the evidence doesn’t add up…
    Black and White / 67 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Maurice Chevalier stars as a poor aspiring architect who signs an agreement not to see his fiancée for two years, in order to save her father from financial ruin.
    Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Jack Denver, man-about-town, wakes up after a binge to find himself in the flat of Yvonne Daumery, whose father insists he marries her.
    Black and White / 74 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • I BELIEVE IN YOU (1952)
    Cecil Parker, Celia Johnson, Harry Fowler and Joan Collins star in the story of an unlucky girl, a troubled young man and their sympathetic probation officers.
    Black and White / 92 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    A wealthy author, looking for material, ‘adopts’ an incorrigible thief he finds in the streets, together with an attractive typist who is down on her luck.
    Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    The head of a Parisian purity league is found out to be anything but when his organisation mistakenly sends an award to the wrong person.
    Black and White / 66 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    In the Australian gold rush of the 1850s, the miners’ struggle to gain their rights proves to be a long and bitter one.
    Black and White / 99 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • TAKE A CHANCE (1937)
    Irritated by her husband’s seeming indifference, the wife of a racehorse trainer flirts with a man whose real object is to learn the secrets of her husband’s stables…
    Black and White / 71 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    A lawyer receives a note telling him that he’ll be dead in 48 hours – and Scotland Yard must work fast to uncover the serial killer known as ‘The Ringer’.
    Black and White / 71 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • PLAY UP THE BAND! (1935)
    Stanley Holloway stars in the hilariously chaotic chronicle of the Heckdyke Steam Wagon Works Brass Band’s attempt to get to the Crystal Palace band contest.
    Black and White / 67 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Under the watchful eye of Matron, five young women begin their nursing careers in the National Health Service.
    Colour / 87 mins / 1.66:1 / Mono / English
  • YOUNG MAN’S FANCY (1939)
    Those were the days! When a music hall was a hall of music, whose saccharine and plaintive numbers made everyone weep – from duke to dustman!
    Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Jimmy Hanley stars as a young boxer whose family faces financial difficulty. A big-time promoter promises fame and fortune – but is he all he claims to be?
    Black and White / 79 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    In his first film sighting, Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayers’ famous amateur sleuth, sets out to prove the innocence of an acquaintance accused of murder.
    Black and White / 71 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • MEET MR LUCIFER (1953)
    Knocked unconscious while playing the Devil, an actor finds himself somewhere considerably hotter – where his host has something to say about television…
    Black and White / 78 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Ironside, an inferior brewer, enlists his son John in a ruse to acquire venerable rival Greenleaf’s; but a romance between John and Greenleaf’s lovely daughter intervenes.
    Black and White / 82 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    The story of Mozart and his wife Constance, set against a background of court intrigue and professional jealousy, with music conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.
    Black and White / 80 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    An exciting tale of international crooks and stolen plans, in which an inventor is kidnapped by foreign agents whilst honeymooning in Scotland.
    Black and White / 65 mins / 1.19:1 / Mono / English
  • LET S BE FAMOUS (1939)
    Village shopkeeper Jimmy fancies himself as a great singer; when he catches the attention of a passing BBC official, his dream seems to be within reach…
    Black and White / 79 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    A multiple BAFTA-award winner based on the true story of a German couple who adopt a boy thought to be a war orphan, and the mother who desperately wants him back.
    Black and White / 86 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Yorkshire ex-docker George Harrison is appointed governor of a Mediterranean island; it stuns the aristocracy, interests the artisans and disturbs the double-dealers…
    Black and White / 81 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • SALOON BAR (1940)
    On the night before the planned execution of a man convicted of murder, can bookie and amateur sleuth Joe Harris unravel the mystery of who really killed Mrs Truscott?
    Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Seaside rep players Peter and Carol are in despair over the chaotic state of rehearsals for Peter’s first play. Then, a local actor turned Hollywood star arrives in the town…
    Black and White / 65 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • LORNA DOONE (1935)
    Margaret Lockwood makes her screen debut in this adaptation of R. D. Blackmore’s classic tale of two feuding West Country families during the seventeenth century.
    Black and White / 82 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • LEASE OF LIFE (1954)
    The wife of a Yorkshire vicar sees a chance for her husband to increase his status and income. But there are more pressing concerns for the gentle, world-weary vicar…
    Colour/ 91 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    The story of the love between the daughter of a record manufacturer and the son of the man he had cheated, set during the early days of the gramophone industry.
    Black and White / 68 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • THREE MEN IN A BOAT (1933)
    An adaptation of Jerome K. Jerome’s classic story charting the comic misadventures of three friends – and a dog – as they take a boating holiday on the Thames.
    Black and White / 54 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • LOYALTIES (1933)
    The sole Jewish guest at a Society gathering is robbed; when he exposes a fellow guest as the thief, he finds the veneer of racial tolerance to be disturbingly thin…
    Black and White / 68 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • THE BAILIFFS (1932)
    In one of their earliest films, Crazy Gang stars Flanagan and Allen star as a couple of incompetent broker’s men who take possession of the wrong house…
    Black and White / 25 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    A respectable suburban householder shocks unwelcome visiting relatives by telling them that he is now a forger working for a criminal gang.
    Black and White / 71 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Whilst looking for artistic inspiration in Paris, a millionaire’s son falls for a beautiful girl. Romantic complications arise when he feigns poverty in order to win her love.
    Black and White / 66 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • AUTUMN CROCUS (1934)
    In his final film role, Ivor Novello plays the married owner of a Tyrolean inn; Fay Compton is the holidaying schoolteacher who falls hopelessly in love with him.
    Black and White / 80 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • THE DICTATOR (1935)
    A drama depicting the stormy marriage of King Christian VII and his English consort, Caroline Matilda, and the Queen’s tragic affair with the royal physician, Struensee.
    Black and White / 82 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • SECRET LIVES (1937)
    A powerful World War I drama tracing the life of a German-born woman who is trained by the French as a spy, but pays a heavy price for her apparent freedom.
    Black and White / 78 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • LONELY ROAD (1936)
    On a drunken drive to the coast, an ex-naval officer interrupts what he believes to be a smuggling operation, and informs Scotland Yard…
    Black and White / 70 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    A.P. Herbert’s famous tale about a girl living on a Thames barge, and her love for a local artist.
    Black and White / 74 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
  • THE SIGN OF FOUR (1932)
    Arthur Wontner stars in the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery in which an ex-convict seeks
    revenge on a man who failed to honour his word.
    Black and White / 74 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English
    Unseen since its original theatrical release, this George Formby vehicle stars George as a gramophone record factory worker who creates a hit song.
    Black and White / 78 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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