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DVD: Roll Out The Barrel - The British Pub on Film | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Roll Out The Barrel - The British Pub on Film

DVD: Roll Out The Barrel - The British Pub on Film

Poignant, fascinating and frequently hilarious; 19 historically important short films devoted to pubs and beer

The BFI's latest, intoxicating anthology

Five and a half hours of documentaries about beer and pubs. The temptation is to stock up on pork scratchings and consume the whole lot in one session, but this wonderful, handsomely-restored two-disc set is best savoured in several sittings. There’s a paradox in the fact that thousands of pubs have closed in recent years but the rate of alcohol-related illness has soared. We’re now getting more smashed than ever, but we buy our booze from Tesco and drink ourselves senseless at home.

Roll Out the Barrel will make all but the hardest-hearted drinker shed a tear for what’s been lost, namely the social and communal role that pubs have played in British life. You could easily lose yourself in the wealth of historical detail on show. The beiges and browns.The dimpled pint glasses. The darts. The smoking. The most affecting films include a sequence produced in the 1950s and 1960s by the National Coal Board. Tramps Ball and Beer and Skittles are monochrome delights. German director Peter Nestler’s 1965 documentary A Working Men’s Club in Sheffield is a standout, an objective, affectionate and unsentimental portrayal of a working class community, largely commentary-free.

Anthony Short’s 1971 Guinness for You is still impressive, with its electronic soundtrack, fancy camera angles and subtle product placement. A Round of Bass reflects the steady advance of lager, no longer marketed as a luxury drink for ladies. Digby Turpin’s 1974 Henry Cleans Up, starring Michael Palin and Terry Jones starts as sub-Ripping Yarns broad comedy before morphing into a technical lecture on how to store and serve Guinness.

James Allen’s What’ll You Have? features the wonderful Richard Wattis as our guide in a sub-Carry On history of pubs. It concludes with a wince-inducing, infuriatingly catchy song. New Pubs for Old demonstrates how an enterprising company sold mock-Victorian pub interiors made from fibreglass. The curio is Arnold Miller’s 1969 Under the Table You Must Go. Sleazy and compelling by turn, it includes cameos from the likes of Jimmy Hill and Tommy Trinder. Fascinating, erudite notes add to the pleasure. Essential viewing for social historians and CAMRA members alike.

Watch the trailer to Roll Out the Barrel


Henry Cleans Up starts as sub-Ripping Yarns broad comedy before morphing into a technical lecture on how to store and serve Guinness

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