British Film Studios by Kiri Bloom Walden (book review).

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

If you’re after another stocking-filler, then you might consider this one, ‘British Film Studios’ by Kiri Bloom Walden. Not only does it look over the eight studios on the UK mainland, but also looks at the people who ran them and also some of their significant films, directors and cast, all accompanied by a selection of photographs in black and white as well as colour in front and behind the scenes. In the introduction, I was surprised to discover that Lime Grove Studios, where early ‘Doctor Who’ was filmed used to belong to Gainsborough.


The growth of the British film studios came in part because of government legislation ensuring that American films didn’t dominate our cinemas. Ultimately, this resulted in American money financing our films and ultimately allowing our own people to be trained. When World War Two came around, as a means for propaganda films to be made, untrained military personal but with the right aptitude were brought in to learn the trade which swelled the ranks after the war. It’s interesting seeing the change from silence to sound movies and the problems of sound-proofing, not from within the studio but from outside and ultimately, a lot of relocation. Walden points out that the crews were all in ties and jacket rather than wear anything practical but that’s typical of us British from any time up to the 60s.

There’s a lot of useful information. Hitchcock started as a sign writer before rising up the ranks at Gainsborough to directing his first film, ‘The Lodger’ in 1926. He was closely followed by David Lean.

Pinewood was part owned by J. Arthur Rank and although he knew nothing about filming himself. Over my tentative years, the black opening credit of films from his company was a fond memory.

The Ealing Studios was the earliest opened in 1902, lasting until 1955. The first full-length talkie ‘Atlantic’ was filmed at Elstree in 1929, although Hitchcock’s ‘Blackmail’ was filmed as both a silent and talkie. The first Technicolor film ‘Wings Of The Morning’ in the UK was made at Denham Studios in 1936.

The look at Hammer’s Bray Studios and indeed, Cardington was something that I was familiar with and the level of accuracy here tends to make me think the rest of the text to be the same way.

One notable error was showing a photo from ‘Aliens’ on page 72 with a note about ‘Alien’. It’s not as though Ridley Scott, who also has a photo further in, remotely looks like Jim Cameron but someone should have spotted this.

As pointed out at the beginning, this book is really more of a taster for our UK film studios and if these pique your interest, there is a suitable bibliography for you to seek out more books. For our genre, there are photos from ‘2001’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Batman Begins’ and some Hammer films but the range themselves, especially showing the studio lots. Granted, you’re often not seeing more than large warehouse-sized buildings but when you consider how much was done in them then any film buff is going to be excited. It was also interesting seeing the 007 Stage at Pinewood with nothing in it to get an idea of its scale.

I can’t recall any other book condensing so much about all the British film studios and its small size makes it a convenient portable reference book as well. Roll ’em.

GF Willmetts

November 2013

(pub: Shire Books. 82 page illustrated indexed small softcover. Price: £ 8.99 (UK), $15.95 (US), $17.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-74781-284-5)

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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