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The Best of COI: Five Decades of Public Information Films on Blu-ray in April

3 April 2020

Established in April 1946, the Central Office of Information (COI) was the successor to the wartime Ministry of Information and went on to produce and distribute thousands of films for use across Britain, the Commonwealth and the world.

Although perhaps best remembered now for the short public information films, particularly from the 1970s, the COI’s huge range of films had different purposes, for instance some were aimed at specialist audiences and others were made to promote Britain abroad.

Reflecting that, this 2-disc Blu-ray collection, released by the BFI later this month, brings together many of the COI's most loved (and in some cases feared) and most interesting productions from 1944-1981 which are now preserved in the BFI National Archive. Among them are Design for TodayApachesLonely Water and Charley's March of Time along with two previously unreleased COI classics, Smoking and You and Waverley Steps.

Special features are four public information ‘fillers’, short but hard-hitting films designed to shock, including the chilling, iconic AIDS: Iceberg (1987), directed by Nic Roeg with music by Brian Eno.

Other renowned directors that passed through the portals of the COI include luminaries of the British documentary movement such as Paul Rotha, Humphrey Jennings and Lindsay Anderson and in later years the likes of Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) and Peter Greenaway (The Pillow Book).

The Best of COI: Five Decades of Public Information Films

The Best of COI: Five Decades of Public Information Films will be released as a 2-disc Blu-ray set by the BFI on 20 April 2020 at the RRP of £24.99.

DISC 1:

  • Children of the City (1944)
  • Brief City (1952)
  • Design for Today (1965)
  • Voyage North (1965)
  • Lonely Water (1973)
  • Drive Carefully, Darling (1975)
  • Apaches (1977)
  • Building Sites Bite (1978)
  • Insight: Zandra Rhodes (1981)

DISC 2:

  • Your Children and You (1946)
  • Waverley Steps (1948)
  • Charley's March of Time (1948)
  • What a Life! (1948)
  • Another Case of Poisoning (1949)
  • Riding on Air (1959)
  • Smoking and You (1963)
  • The Poet's Eye (1964)
  • Opus (1967)
  • Never Go With Strangers (1971)

Special features:

  • Searching (1974, 1 min): meticulously planned and expertly executed by director John Krish, Searching won the COI a Golden Lion at Venice. It still hits hard and still hurts
  • Grain Drain (1975, 1 min): the perils of farmyard grain pits are laid bare in this filler that is simple yet terrifyingly effective
  • Tornado Trailer (1985, 2 mins): cut together from the rushes of a longer COI film, Tornado, this adrenalin-filled two minutes features synth music by BAFTA-winning composer Chris Gunning
  • AIDS: Iceberg (1987, 1 min) Part of perhaps the most chilling government campaign ever made, the features music by the legendary Brian Eno and was directed by Nic Roeg (Don’t Look Now)