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DVD Review

DVD cover

A Year to Remember
The 1950s


Strike Force Entertainment / Cherry Red Records
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: E
Available 31 January 2011

Using rare news footage and interviews from the incredible British Pathé archive, this series provides a year by year look at what made the news of yesteryear. With a comprehensive hour long programme on each year of the 1950s, this three disc collection provides the definitive insight into the decade that took us from post-war austerity to consumer boom...

The morale-boosting Festival of Britain in 1951 was held to encourage commerce in challenging times - rationing was still in effect and the post-war baby boom come to fruition in the birth of 'teenage' culture. This sizeable younger population was making its new found spending power felt with the rise of 'Rock n Roll' and the emergence of coffee shops on street corners.

Although the decade began with a Labour government with Clement Attlee as Prime Minister, the Conservatives would dominate the decade with Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden and Howard Macmillan all taking residence at 10 Downing Street. It was a challenging time for the politicians as they dealt with the Suez Canal Crisis, the Soviet invasion of Hungary, further H-Bomb testing and, closer to home, the horrific Harrow and Wealdstone train disaster. The whole country was also united in grief with the passing of King George VI, and then with pride as the masses witnessed the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It was also a period marked by scientific and technological progress; the first Sputnik Satellite, the last ride on the London Tram, the Polio vaccination and, much to the dislike of motorists everywhere, the introduction of the parking meter.

Unlike later collections in this series, which have a far great wealth of news resources to pick and chose from, this '50s collection doesn't run through the year giving us a month by month account. Instead we flip back and forth through each year. While this is understandable to some extend, it does make for confusing viewing on occasions. For example racing driver Mike Hawthorn's death is reported and then later we see him at that year's Motor Show.

Highlights of this collection include:

1950: The creation of the Hydrogen bomb; the birth of Princess Anne; Churchill's 76 birthday; and the death of George Bernard Shaw (aged 94).

1951: Princess Margaret turns 21; and Churchill is re-elected.

1952: America tests the first Hydrogen bomb; Britain tests its first Atomic bomb; the Death of the king; London saying goodbye to its last tram; and a number of terrible tragedies: Lynmouth flood, Farnborough plane crash; John Cobb dies while trying to beat the water speed record at Loch Ness.

1953: Stalin dies; Edmund Hillary climbs Mount Everest; Queen Mary dies; Churchill receives the Nobel Price for literature; and the Queen's Coronation is broadcast in colour.

1954: Roger Bannister becomes the first person to run a mile in under four minutes; Churchill is knighted; Cutty Sark arrives in Greenwich, where it is to go on display; Roman temple remains found near Mansion House in London; Tornado hits London; 100th Oxford/Cambridge boat race; and 18 year old Lester Piggott wins the derby.

1955: A car explodes and showers the crowd with debris, killing 79 people, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1957: Harold Macmillan becomes prime minister; Prince Charles starts boarding school; the Space Race begins; Britain's first H-Bomb is detonated; and Caroline, Princess of Hanover is born to Prince Rainier III of Monaco and the Princess of Monaco (Grace Kelly).

1958: Manchester United Munich plane crash; Queen's opening of Parliament was filmed for the first time; and Edmund Hillary reaches the South Pole.

1959: Castro comes to power in Cuba; the M1 is opened; and Buckingham Palace guards are moved inside the gates because of issues with tourists.

If you lived through this time period then this is an essential purchase.


Darren Rea

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