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Any Man's Kingdom (1956)


Main image of Any Man's Kingdom (1956)
35mm, Technicolor, 22 mins
DirectorTony Thompson
Production Company British Transport Films
ProducerIan Ferguson
Commentary scriptHarry Green
PhotographyBob Paynter
PhotographyReg Hughes
MusicElisabeth Lutyens

Commentary: Stephen Murray

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A guided tour of Northumberland.

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One of many Technicolor travelogues highlighting the attractions of individual English counties, Any Man's Kingdom took British Transport Films' cameras to Northumberland, the northernmost part of England. As the commentary makes clear, it's a turbulent part of the country in climate, geography and history alike, the front line in battles against the Scots and the Vikings (the full quotation alluded to by the title is "any man's kingdom - for those who could take it") - and although things are far more sedate in 1956, the centuries still weigh heavily upon it.

Indeed, BTF explicitly stated that this was its aim, when it said that Northumberland "offers such a variety of scenery and of history, such a rich fullness of life to its residents and to its visitors that choice of subject matter is more than usually difficult. In making Any Man's Kingdom, the producers have attempted to include aspects of the county which not only illustrate this variety but which may also conjure up something of the heartwarming Northumbrian atmosphere."

In this respect, Elisabeth Lutyens' spare, bleak score, with its haunting choral interlude, is in many ways just as effective as Harry Green's commentary (read by Stephen Murray), though the latter can also reach heights of impressive poetic intensity. The River Tweed is "a water-wall, where the clansmen leaped like salmon", the rural north is "cattle country, bull-savage and calf-sad, but the mincing sheep have civilised it", and a bounding deer fleeing an unseen predator attracts the idle musing "How strange that fear should look so much like joy".

In addition to the local wildlife, the tour takes In the towns of Alnwick, Berwick, Craster, Lindisfarne, Blanchland and Bellingham. Much wildlife is in evidence, from wild cattle to the seals and birds that congregate by the distinctive white and red Longstone lighthouse. Numerous ruined castles and the ridge of Hadrian's Wall convey the constant threat of invasion, but there are also more sedate lives being lived in such towns as Alnwick, Berwick, Craster, Lindisfarne and Blanchland. Bellingham Fair provides the colour and clamour of the film's closing scenes, complete with traditional Cumberland wrestling.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Birdwatching (2:32)
Complete film (20:11)
British Transport Films