I can’t say I have a huge knowledge of Ealing comedies, so an upcoming blu-ray release of Passport to Pimlico seemed like a good time to catch up with a British classic I hadn’t seen.
And Passport to Pimlico is a very enjoyable film too, full of charm and wit. Set in 1947 in war-damaged London, the residents of Pimlico discover treasure buried under the streets which they discover belonged to the Duke of Burgundy. A charter found with the treasure reveals that Pimlico is actually territory belonging to Burgundy, leading the locals to declare themselves a foreign state and circumvent post-war regulations like rationing. Of course, what seems like a great idea at first has its drawbacks and Burgundy’s new government of honest Eastend types get caught up protecting their territory and treasure while negotiating with the English government.
There is much to like about Passport to Pimlico, a superb example of a British film made specifically for the home audiences of the time that still holds up today and manages a universal appeal. Much of the film’s likability lays with the characters, who show a great sense of community along with wartime resilience and determination. It’s their personalities, believable interactions with one another, and well… just charm, that makes you get behind them however silly their scheme might seem.
It’s amazing actually how well the film has aged. The humour is still sharp, subtly dark, and really quite funny. The story transcends the wartime context and still has relevance today. The current economic context will help modern audiences relate, but the basic message of community spirit, using wealth to take care of those that need it most, and injecting energy into a worn down society are fairly universal themes.
As a Londoner I always find it fascinating seeing the city of film, and Passport to Pimlico offers some insight into what the city, its people, and their attitudes were like in the immediate post-war period. And while I don’t know Pimlico very well, I found a short sequence shot in Piccadilly Circus very interesting from a historical comparison point of view.
I’m glad to say the new blu-ray transfer is excellent since there’s something special about watching old black and white films in top quality high definition. It was restored at Pinewood studios using the best original prints available and then touched up digitally. The soundtrack seems to have received less attention though and while it’s perfectly fine as it is, it doesn’t quite ‘pop’ like the well-shot imagery.
I’m very glad I had the chance to catch up with Passport to Pimlico, it’s a movie that is entertaining, funny, charming, and also historically satisfying and interesting.
Passport to Pimlico is released on blu-ray June 11th, and will be screened in selected cinemas on June 5th.