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Country Comes to Town, The (1933)


Main image of Country Comes to Town, The (1933)
35mm, black and white, 21 mins
Director (uncredited)Basil Wright
Production CompanyEmpire Marketing Board Film Unit
Producer (uncredited)John Grierson
Photography (uncredited)Basil Wright
 Germain Burger

Behind the romantic image of Britain's rural idyll lies a modern, developing countryside. But its value to the urban economy is as great as ever.

Show full synopsis

Basil Wright's short attempts to modernise the image of the British countryside. Instead of a picturesque playground for daytrippers (the growing impact of motorists on the nation's rural areas was a massive popular issue in the inter-war years), it presents rural Britain as the site of '101 revolutions'.

Thus the film champions the new 'battalions' of hens (managed by farmers using "graphs which are thoroughly highbrow") and improvements in hygiene which have made milk safer from 'adventuring bacillus'. In today's world, 'factory farming' has become a loaded term and the film's boasts about improving the productivity of farm animals have a faintly sinister ring. In the context of inter-war deprivation, however, such methods provided a beacon of hope, and the Empire Marketing Board's short prefigured the launch of egg, milk, cheese and fruit marketing boards that similarly promoted British produce.

However, while the commentary pours scorn on romantic views of the countryside, its images work in the opposite direction: tulip pickers stand before windmills, dogs play around water cress farmers and women work among picture-postcard thatched cottages. Despite the occasional odd angle and inventive juxtaposition (such as the cut from cream to clouds), aesthetically, The Country Comes To Town is deeply conventional. This discrepancy can be variously explained by the influence of Robert Flaherty (who accompanied Wright) and Sir Stephen Tallents (a country life correspondent for The Manchester Guardian), as well as the film's commercial imperative. Unusually for an EMB title, it was given a theatrical release in 1933.

Optimistic, in thrall to progress and the wider application of scientific techniques to everyday life, The Country Comes to Town is quintessentially EMB.

Scott Anthony

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Video Clips
1. Holland of England (1:09)
2. Milking (2:07)
3. City at night (2:25)
Complete film (21:16)
Experiment on the Welsh Hills, An (1932)
Grierson, John (1898-1972)
Tallents, Sir Stephen (1884-1958)
Wright, Basil (1907-1987)
Empire Marketing Board Film Unit (1926-1933)