World War I Films of the Silent Era
"It might reasonably be contended that Humphrey Jennings is the only real poet the British cinema has yet produced." - Lindsay Anderson, Director
These astonishing films show and explain essential news and propaganda functions of the movies during the Great War of 1914-1918. In those days before television and even before radio, fiction films in movie theaters were the most widely shared public experience, while news films were the most potent and detailed public images of armament, military life and even front line action. Some news film was faked and much of it was censored, but some was authentic, obtained at great risk by daredevil combat cameramen.
Fighting The War (1916) is the work of 26-year-old American adventure Donald C. Thompson. He photographed some of the most amazing front line films of the entire war. This film was taken during the Battle of Verdun in which the French suffered staggering losses defending the town and its associated forts. With his keen photographic eye and iron nerves, Thompson shows not only troop movements and trench life but also authentic battle from positions within a few hundred feet of the German lines. Then he takes to the air and photographs an actual dogfight between British and German aircraft from an open-cockpit plane.
The Log of the U-35 is a totally authentic filmed account of sinkings on one Mediterranean cruise in April 1917 by a submarine commanded by Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière, Germany's U-Boat Ace of Aces, during the period of unrestricted submarine warfare. This edition is a combination of the 1919 British and the 1920 American versions of a jaw-dropping German film of 1917, Der Magische Gürtel (The Enchanted Circle).
Producers of commercial films were eager to please not only audiences but also the U.S. Government's Committee on Public Information which determined what films would be licensed for export to earn important foreign revenue. Many productions thus followed official points of view in patriotically reflecting and shaping changing attitudes towards the war. Representing this genre is The Secret Game (Paramount, 1917), directed by William C. deMille. Reported when new as a "timely release," it's a detective story in which representatives of Japan (our ally in 1917-18) and the United States work hand-in-hand to frustrate German agents in their effort to get information about American transport sailing on the Pacific.
The Moving Picture Boys in the Great War (1975) is a compilation documentary narrated by Lowell Thomas, illustrating changing attitudes toward the war and its participants, as well as toward the movies themselves. Every shot is an image preserved from those days - actual and faked news films, government propaganda films, fiction films that range from the sensational excesses of 'Hun brutality' to the sentiment of D.W. Griffith, as well as magazine covers, posters, lantern slides and still photographs. The filmmakers were doctoral candidates in American studies, and apart from being quite entertaining, the film has been praised by historians for its balance and accuracy. Winner, Gold Medal, 1975 Chicago Film Festival.
FILMS INCLUDED IN COLLECTION:
Fighting The War (1916)
Produced for DVD by David Shepard