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COI at 75

The Central Office of Information (COI) produced and distributed thousands of films for use across Britain, the Commonwealth and the world. Paid for by you the taxpayer, the films couldn’t have been more varied: documentary, drama, news, animation, comedy -  even horror.

In this collection, 75 films mark the COI’s 75th anniversary, and reveal that sheer variety. Founded in 1946,  finally closing in 2012, the COI worked for virtually every corner of government meeting every possible information, publicity and propaganda need. Here you’ll find samples of the COI’s iconic public information campaigns - sometimes humorous, often horrific - but you'll also find much more… Here are films used to project a positive image of Britain abroad – film as 'soft power' - and films used to recruit its workforces and support our public services at home. When the ever-changing requirements of the state meet the ever-ready skills of our creative industries, the results are richly fascinating and endlessly debatable.

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Riding on AirRiding on Air

Documentary195916 mins Location: London

A beautiful and evocative survey of cycling's golden years.

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The Fatal FloorThe Fatal Floor

Public Information Filler19741 mins

Typically hard-hitting public information film about the threat posed by combining a rug and a freshly polished floor.

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Handkerchief DrillHandkerchief Drill

Public Information Filler19491 mins

Another of Richard Massingham’s snappy public information fillers finds the oafish everyman’s personal hygiene in question again.

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The Smoking MachineThe Smoking Machine

Documentary196416 mins

Documentary warning children about the drawbacks of cigarettes – not least their addictiveness.

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District NurseDistrict Nurse

Government sponsored film195227 mins Location: Wadhurst

Never a dull moment for a rural district nurse in the early days of the NHS.

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Race Relations BoardRace Relations Board

Public Information Filler19691 mins

New law targets discrimination in housing and employment in this eye-opening public information film.

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Worn Tyres Can KillWorn Tyres Can Kill

Animation & Artists Moving Image19731 minsSilent

A couple goes out for a drive, but their car has clearly seen better days - and so have its tyres.

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Jet-propelled GermsJet-propelled Germs

Documentary19481 mins

One of several highly entertaining films from Richard Massingham about the dangers of uncontrolled sneezing.

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His Fighting ChanceHis Fighting Chance

Government sponsored film194910 mins

Eleanor Roosevelt and Michael Redgrave narrate this optimistic post-war film on the rehabilitation of disabled people with polio.

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Return to LifeReturn to Life

Documentary196029 mins

John Krish’s deeply compassionate documentary on the resettlement of refugees in Britain; made to mark World Refugee Year 1959.

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The Sewing MachineThe Sewing Machine

Public Information Filler19731 mins

The Sewing Machine is a disturbing, 60 second road-safety film in which a mother, who sits at her sewing machine inside her house, warns her daughter to stay on the pavement, to no avail.

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Space InvaderSpace Invader

Public Information Filler19821 mins

Kitsch public information filler inspired by the classic arcade game

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Lonely WaterLonely Water

19732 mins

Terrifying public information film presenting the horrific consequences of playing in or near rivers, ponds and other water hazards.

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Blood Is LifeBlood Is Life

Documentary195716 mins

There will be blood: a public information film that engages the mind and tugs the heart.

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Out of TrueOut of True

Instructional film/TV programme195141 mins

An innovative drama-doc, one of the first to deal seriously with clinical depression

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London Line No. 373London Line No. 373

Cinemagazine197115 minsSilent Location: Westminster

A Ghanaian fashion student and a Nigerian squash player are among the Africans making a life in 70s Britain in this edition of the magazine show.

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Green Cross Code - Splink LaunchGreen Cross Code - Splink Launch

Public Information Filler1 mins

A former Doctor Who returns to Earth to deliver a road safety message

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Coi: Seat Belts - Human CannonballCoi: Seat Belts - Human Cannonball

Advert19781 mins

A circus act – of sorts – combines with gallows humour in a shatteringly effective reminder to "clunk, click" even on the shortest trip.

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InsaafInsaaf

Government sponsored film197143 mins

An extremely unusual, deeply fascinating public information film - targeted at the South Asian community and filmed partly in Urdu.

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Furnival and SonFurnival and Son

Government sponsored film194819 mins Location: Sheffield

Super location footage enlivens this drama-documentary on Sheffield's steel industry.

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Life in Her HandsLife in Her Hands

Instructional film/TV programme195155 mins

Kathleen Byron - of Black Narcissus fame - stars in one of the most ambitious recruitment films ever made.

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What's in a NumberWhat's in a Number

Documentary drama19481 mins

National insurance made amusing by the eccentric Richard Massingham.

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Smoking and YouSmoking and You

School programme and Educational film196311 mins

The anti-smoking campaign starts here, with the first ever anti-tobacco film – and very impressive it is too.

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Nursing in the NHS: Spanish Nurses RecruitmentNursing in the NHS: Spanish Nurses Recruitment

Promotional20028 mins

Nurses needed: this early 21st century recruitment video makes fascinating viewing today.

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The RefereeThe Referee

Animation & Artists Moving Image19764 mins

Wrestling as a metaphor for race relations in this short aimed at Britain's South-Asian community

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Moslems in Britain - PlacesMoslems in Britain - Places

Documentary196423 mins Location: Woking

Visit the places important to London's Muslim community in this informative short documentary.

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Moslems in Britain - PeopleMoslems in Britain - People

Documentary196424 mins

A series of interviews about life in the capital with Muslims living and studying in London

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Fair RentFair Rent

Documentary194711 mins Location: Aberdeen

Power cuts, housing shortages and exorbitant rents – Aberdeen man Norrie Williamson goes head to head with his greedy landlady

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West of EnglandWest of England

Industry sponsored film195110 mins Location: Stroud

The Stroud valleys of Gloucestershire in glorious Technicolor - and with a Laurie Lee script.

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StrangersStrangers

Public Information Filler19731 mins

Who needs to talk to strangers when you're the only one who can understand the garbled mewling of your best buddy cat, Charley?

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Night CallNight Call

Fantasy197727 mins

Stylish 70s road safety film with a sting in the tail.

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Women in IndustryWomen in Industry

Public Information Filler19481 mins

The Ministry of Labour exhorts women to return to industry – the post-war production drive depends on them.

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Dover, Spring 1947Dover, Spring 1947

Documentary194711 mins Location: Dover

Dover gets a makeover in this offbeat and pointed public information film.

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Waverley StepsWaverley Steps

Documentary194831 mins Location: Edinburgh

Beautifully evocative impression of a Sunday in early postwar Edinburgh.

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Aids - IcebergAids - Iceberg

Public Information Filler19871 mins

Simple and devastatingly effective, a key advert from the UK's first major AIDS awareness campaign.

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Aids - MonolithAids - Monolith

Public Information Filler19871 mins

Portentous imagery and John Hurt’s grave voiceover define this key film from a £5 million campaign to combat the AIDS epidemic.

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Parade No. 112Parade No. 112

19739 mins

Follow the remarkable intercontinental process of 1970s steel manufacture, from Liberian iron ore to titanium jewellery.

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Uganda AsiansUganda Asians

Non-Fiction19724 mins

How will Britain respond to the plight of thousands of refugees?

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Charley in New TownCharley in New Town

Animation & Artists Moving Image19488 mins

Charley says (no, not that one) that Britain’s new towns are great

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How to Use the TelephoneHow to Use the Telephone

Public Information Filler194819 mins

Hold please. Enter a distinctly British bureaucracy as the post-war Civil Service learns to be civil on the telephone

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Dying for a SmokeDying for a Smoke

Animation & Artists Moving Image196710 mins

What the Devil made you start smoking?

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Firework : EyesFirework : Eyes

Public Information Filler19741 mins

Stark 70s firework safety film which mixes the everyday and the uncanny

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Green Cross Code - He's GreatGreen Cross Code - He's Great

Public Information Filler19760 mins

David Prowse (the frame of Darth Vader) appears as the iconic Green Cross Code Man, heaping praise on a young GXC expert.

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Talk about WorkTalk about Work

Instructional film/TV programme197115 mins Location: Liverpool

Ken Loach makes Public Information Film shock!

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Instruments of the OrchestraInstruments of the Orchestra

Performance194618 mins

One of Benjamin Britten’s best-known pieces, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, was composed for this film.

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Playing with FirePlaying with Fire

Public Information Filler194710 mins

You're asking for trouble when you play with fire - and this public information film is the stuff of nightmares

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Modern Day NightingalesModern Day Nightingales

School programme and Educational film19785 mins

Gripping glimpses of modern nursing - on the frontline at Guy’s Hospital.

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Road Test PedestrianRoad Test Pedestrian

Public Information Filler19741 mins Location: London

Frank Thornton – Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served? – gives a pedestrian a road test in this snappy public information film.

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Never Go with StrangersNever Go with Strangers

Documentary197118 mins

Is this the scariest public information film ever? This hard-hitting warning against 'stranger danger' was considered too distressing to be broadcast on television.

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SearchingSearching

Public Information Filler19741 mins

John Krish’s haunting fire prevention film prowls through a carefully designed burned-out shell of a set.

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Your Children's PlayYour Children's Play

Children's195120 mins

Need some post-war parenting advice? Then this is the film for you.

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Atoms at WorkAtoms at Work

195211 mins Location: Harwell

A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Harwell's nuclear research establishment and the peaceful applications of atomic energy.

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Festival in LondonFestival in London

Documentary195110 mins Location: Lambeth Br

Experience the futuristic delights on offer at London's South Bank during the Festival of Britain

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Simply MetricSimply Metric

Public Information Filler197314 mins

Wouldn't budge an inch for a centimetre? This guide to the new-fangled system of metrication may change your mind.

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Something Completely DifferentSomething Completely Different

19744 minsSilent Location: Doune

Join John Cleese and the cast of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on location in Scotland

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Morecambe and Wise - Be Wise Don't Drink and Drive Morecambe and Wise - Be Wise Don't Drink and Drive

Public Information Filler19631 mins

Ernie tells Eric to ‘be wise’ and not drive home after their Christmas party

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Glenda JacksonGlenda Jackson

Government sponsored film197114 mins

Glenda Jackson talks about acting for theatre and for the camera

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Understanding AggressionUnderstanding Aggression

Documentary196023 mins

Eye-opening drama-doc, originally used in psychiatric nursing training.

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Road Safety - Think BikeRoad Safety - Think Bike

Public Information Filler19781 mins

Think once... think twice... think bike! A memorably two-fisted public information filler.

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Play Safe - FrisbeePlay Safe - Frisbee

Public Information Filler19781 mins

Notorious British safety film in which young Jimmy makes the fatal mistake of trying to retrieve his Frisbee.

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An Ordinary LifeAn Ordinary Life

198529 mins

“I’d much rather work at a computer than make wicker baskets” – disabled people hit the mainstream in 1980s Britain

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The Good Housewife "In Her Kitchen"The Good Housewife "In Her Kitchen"

Public Information Filler19493 mins

Short public information film showing housewives' efficient and hygienic methods of food storage

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Aberdeen Oil BoomAberdeen Oil Boom

Government sponsored film19725 mins Location: Aberdeen

Aberdeen's local fishermen turn into wildcatting oilmen in a lively report from the early days of the North Sea oil boom.

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Pedal CyclistsPedal Cyclists

Public Information Filler19472 mins

A witty, eccentric guide to safety on two wheels under the watchful eye of a pedalling angel.

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So We're Different but ...So We're Different but ...

Documentary197631 mins Location: Coventry

Teachers and pupils of 3 schools in Trafford, Stevenage and Coventry make the case for the acceptance of difference without discrimination.

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London Line Colour No. 16London Line Colour No. 16

Cinemagazine196814 minsSilent Location: Surbiton

What do "I'm Backing Britain", electronic music and nuclear lighthouses have in common? Nothing at all, but they're all here in this 60s TV magazine show.

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Dusty No. 6 : Dusty Says Keep Britain TidyDusty No. 6 : Dusty Says Keep Britain Tidy

Public Information Filler19780 mins

Dusty the kangaroo catches a shadowy figure in the act of dumping an old mattress in this campaigning cartoon

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African Student FamiliesAfrican Student Families

Cinemagazine197510 minsSilent Location: Westminster

Cinemagazine London Line looks at the support available in London for African students and their families.

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The People at No. 19The People at No. 19

Documentary drama194918 mins

Reported cases of sexually transmitted disease took a sharp rise during and after WWII, as back on the home front people like Joan from number 19 were indulging in extra marital promiscuity ... An archive government warning film.

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Only a Fool Breaks the Second Rule - Pile-upOnly a Fool Breaks the Second Rule - Pile-up

Public Information Filler19751 minsSilent

A mysterious stranger foreshadows Death, but is good enough to give a handy driving safety tip along the way

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Children's Heroes: Alvin StardustChildren's Heroes: Alvin Stardust

Public Information Filler19751 mins

Are you out of your tiny mind? Then let glam star Alvin Stardust be your lollypop idol

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MatchesMatches

Animation & Artists Moving Image19731 mins

Home safety is child's play if you have the feline guardian angel of the 70s on hand

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ApachesApaches

Documentary197727 mins

One of the most disturbing public safety films depicts six children being picked off one-by-one by deadly farming machinery.

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Milton Keynes - A Village CityMilton Keynes - A Village City

Cinemagazine19738 mins Location: Milton Keynes

"The most exciting thing going on in Europe, if not the world": welcome to Milton Keynes circa 1973.

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Demise of the Old Penny and Threepenny BitDemise of the Old Penny and Threepenny Bit

Public Information Filler19701 mins

Dig down the back of the sofa for your lost shrapnel: old coinage is phasing out as Britain prepares to go decimal.