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Mining Review 17/8: Story 705 (1964)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The commentary doubles as a synopsis and has therefore been reproduced in full:

With this issue, Mining Review is 16 years and 8 months old. That's 200 monthly issues, each ten minutes long. We've done 704 stories to date, and people sometimes ask us how we get our stories for Mining Review. So that is our 705th story.

The entrance hall of Hobart House, London headquarters of the National Coal Board. About 7.30 each morning, the papers arrive. A little later, when the provincial dailies are in, the girl from the press office calls by to collect them.

Upstairs, the day's news is read, and stories like this marked up. The pick of the mining news goes into a daily press summary. In 1947, a news story gave us the idea to film for the first time the Durham Miners' Gala. We were to go back to Durham many times over the years.

Apart from the printed word, ideas come in from the public relations men on the spot. In 1948, our man in Wales told us about Nantgarw pit, and so we filmed its reconstruction. It was while we were at Nantgarw that we filmed the background to the title which has been our trademark for fifteen years.

Stories are everywhere, waiting to be found and brought to life. Several times a year we sit round a table and thrash out plans for future stories for Mining Review. Where you meet miners, you find pigeons, and we've often covered the colliers' sport. In a sense, their wheeling flight symbolises the way we cast around for stories. This time, we settled on an item about a million ton pit which found its way into the headlines.

Our investigations on Story 705 called for a good deal of legwork - above ground and often underground. We do a lot of talking with the men on the job. It's their ideas which will bring alive the script. Any amateur movie fan will tell you that you can waste a lot of film if you haven't a particular filming plan. A shooting script is a typewritten list of various shots needed to make a story on film. Through it, the director visualises his story.

This is what the baggage amounts to when the unit finally gets onto the road! It's a morning departure. They'll be away for five days and four nights. Sometimes an unexpected story may turn up along the way. This seat on the A5 for instance we first saw ten years ago. The meeting place of retired miners, who between them had worked for nearly 550 years in the pits. As we pass it now on our way north, the seat has gone, and the road is being widened. In a nearby pub, we re-met some of the old-timers. Mining associations die hard.

But you can't dwell too long on old memories when you're making a news story. We're into County Durham, and soon aboard the coal-fired ferry at Blythe in Northumberland. This windmill is the signpost to our destination: Lynemouth, the million ton pit, one of the biggest coal producers in the six hundred the nation owns.

Agent manager Smith has just finished his rounds down the pit. A quick word with Mr Smith, and filming can begin. Pits are busy places, and when you come up into the daylight after a hard shift, a film camera is the last thing you expect to see. We remember gratefully the help Mining Review has had from miners and their managers over the years.

Not all our stories are about work, and Story 705 is no exception. On the night train to London the film - we call it the rushes - travels to the laboratories. It's processed overnight, and first thing next morning we're able to look at the results. They're in higgledy-piggledy order, very different from the finished job. It's the film editor who from these bits shapes the story. And here's where I come in, recording the commentary. I've done it every month for the last sixteen years. Sixteen years. Four pages of typescript and, in the pauses, an occasional glass - of water. Musicians record the music. And sometimes a song is sung. Dozens of other jobs have to be done in the sound recording studio and the laboratories before a final issue of Mining Review is ready for printing. The reel will go into 800 cinemas to be seen by a million people a month. Every night and all over Britain, Mining Review is played.

And here's where you - the audience - come in. It's for you that Mining Review is made, and has been made these past 17 years. Whichever way you look at it, Mining Review is about coal and the men who mine it - the miners. But when all's said and done, this coal that lies beneath our island belongs to you and me, to all of us, for all our lifetimes.