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Man Failure (1971)


Main image of Man Failure (1971)
35mm, colour, 18 mins
DirectorMichael Shoring
Production CompanyNational Coal Board Film Unit
SponsorNational Coal Board
ProducerRobert Kruger
PhotographyEddie Tilling
CommentatorJohn Woodvine

Three examples of accidents and how the personal situations of the people concerned contributed to them.

Show full synopsis

This startling and unforgettable warning to miners about the dangers of carelessness encompasses some of the more sexist aspects of the spirit of the 1960s. In fact, despite its title, the film suggests that women are often to blame for accidents in mines by their distracting effect on men's concentration.

Tom is morose at work after a breakfast-time row with his wife, and he neglects basic underground safety precautions, with tragic consequences. Flashbacks involving remarkable jagged editing and the use of pulsing sound convey his wife's incessant nagging - she has no voice of her own - and the blame for Tom's accident is placed squarely on her. As the narrator says: "His wife didn't appreciate the burden she imposed." Short comic interludes featuring minor health and safety incidents accompanied by perky music are juxtaposed with lengthier dramatisations of more serious accidents. This bizarreness is enhanced by the final sequence of macho Pat's nude motorbike-riding and skinny-dipping with his passenger, a blonde beauty. Pat's far-fetched tales of his exploits prove too much for his workmate, Joe, with further tragic results.

Like many training films produced by the National Coal Board Film Unit, Man Failure focuses on human error as the main cause of accidents, rather than the hazardous nature of the mining profession. The director of this film, Michael Shoring, working for several years with the NCB Film Unit before moving into sound engineering on feature films, including Merchant Ivory productions.

In Man Failure, progressive filmmaking techniques are used to telling effect in stark contrast with the less-than-progressive view of women. Whether it is the nagging wife or the bathing beauty, the bad influence of women extends deep underground.

Ros Cranston

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Portrait of a Miner: The National Coal Board Collection Volume 1'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Domestic problems (5:18)
2. Biking distraction (6:09)
Complete film (16:58)
Hands, Knees and Bumps a Daisy (1969)
Mining Review 22/5: She (1969)
Too Late Now (1976)