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Too Late Now (1976)


Main image of Too Late Now (1976)
35mm, colour, 14 mins total
DirectorDavid Pitt
Production CompanyNational Coal Board Film Unit
ProducerRobert Kruger

Seven short, symbolic messages about safety, in which coffins loom large.

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While these are some of the most curious productions of the National Coal Board Film Unit, this series of seven Too Late Now shorts do represent part of a recognisable format, that of the safety film.

One of the uncredited directors of these films, David Pitt, had made a more conventional version of the form at about the same time, called It's Your Funeral (1976). That was a 28-minute health and safety film promoting good practice and how to prevent avoidable accidents, intended for management and electricians. These are something else; with the running time and approach of the cinema advertisement they were evidently designed to be slipped into programmes of other films.

The use of humour to sweeten unpalatable messages from management was an established cliché of the industrial film, the comedy suggesting camaraderie between ranks rather the hierarchy of authority. While this works reasonably well in films about improving efficiency and those promoting good customer relations or workplace etiquette - it faces an uphill struggle when confronting death at work.

The reality of the risks faced in the profession would have been evident enough to their audience. The partial records amassed by the Coalmining History Resource Centre reveal over 100,000 accidents resulting in injury or death in the period 1900 to date. Nevertheless these films are both uncomfortable - their probable intention - and unreservedly strange, not just in their humour, but in their frame of reference, which includes an allusion to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet, Sweden, 1957) which seems more likely to have appealed to the cinephile filmmakers than the average miner.

James Piers Taylor

*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. Wish You Were Here (1:26)
2. I'll See You (2:37)
3. A Beautiful Memory (1:25)
4. We Pick The Flowers (1:29)
5. Room For One (1:28)
6. A Good Send-Off (3:42)
7. Standard or Luxury Trim (1:46)
Complete compilation (13:56)
Hands, Knees and Bumps a Daisy (1969)
Man Failure (1971)