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1917 on Film

A fourth year of war and no end in sight. Government propaganda stepped up, and even animation took a dark turn... What our forebears saw in cinemas a century ago.

1917 was the darkest year of the war. With stagnation on the western front and the German U-boat campaign beginning to really bite, the country was now on a total war footing. In the film world, the government took over the Topical Film Company’s newsreel units and began to produce more propaganda films, largely on home front issues such as the formation of the Women's Land Army, as well as (well-censored) reporting from the front. Henry Edwards began to produce ‘film tags’: two-minute story films with home front messages on rationing, saving food and recycling materials. Meanwhile, momentous news from Russia barely registered in British films. With film stock scarce, only a few long dramas were produced. One of the most revealing films of the year is Dudley Buxton's animation Ever Been Had, which although ostensibly comic, imagines a grim future in which the British, having prematurely made peace with Germany before she was comprehensively beaten, are crushed by German super weapons. The destruction of London by death rays from the sky and great amphibious tanks crawling over its ruins is a chilling a vision as anything cinema has invented.

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No Mischief Here Can Satan Find for Idle Hands to Do
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No Mischief Here Can Satan Find for Idle Hands to Do

19171 mins

Pathe's series on WWI turns its eye homeward in this edition about the interning of enemy aliens

The Production of a Map
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The Production of a Map

Non-Fiction19177 mins

Worlds within worlds: a maps and globes factory, expertly charted on celluloid

Metropolitan Police Ambulance Team
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Metropolitan Police Ambulance Team

191718 mins

Metropolitan Police officers demonstrate their paramedic skills in this early training film

Woman's Day
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Woman's Day

Non-Fiction19171 mins

Help the women who are helping the men!

History of the War: The Birth Place of the Great War
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History of the War: The Birth Place of the Great War

19177 mins

Episode of Pathé's series on WWI, focused on the outbreak of hostilities between Austria and Serbia

Mighty Atoms
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Mighty Atoms

19178 mins

While mothers make guns, children have fun: take a peek inside the Woolwich Nursery for the Children of Munition Workers

Mrs. Cooper's Film No 2
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Mrs. Cooper's Film No 2

Amateur film191726 mins

Can film fight? In this fascinating amateur footage, King George sends officers to the front with reels and projectors

Empire Troops
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Empire Troops

19173 mins

The might of the British Empire is mobilised for war during 1914 and 1915.

Carrying On in Blackpool
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Carrying On in Blackpool

Non-Fiction19171 mins Location: Blackpool

What a carry on! Grown-ups and nippers alike enjoy some seaside fun at Blackpool

Women Unloading Railway Trucks
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Women Unloading Railway Trucks

Non-Fiction19172 mins

Sprucely dressed women set themselves to lugging tarpaulin and unloading sacks in this WWI newsreel

Alps
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Alps

Travelogue19173 mins

This scrapbook travelogue takes a pictorial tour of the Alps by train, sledge and sleigh

Aldershot Command Gazette
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Aldershot Command Gazette

19176 mins

King George V and Queen Mary review activities at Aldershot, Hampshire - Britain's largest military training camp

History of the War: Russian Front
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History of the War: Russian Front

19174 mins

Intriguing instalment in Pathé series on WWI, looking at our Russian allies on the Eastern Front

"Peril"  The Story of the Gotha Raiders
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"Peril" The Story of the Gotha Raiders

War191723 mins Location: London

Lively blood and thunder yarn in which German spies try to destroy London's air defences

History of the War: Ypres
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History of the War: Ypres

19171 mins

Tantalising fragment from Pathé's History of the War series, looking at the battle of Ypres

King's Maundy Money
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King's Maundy Money

Non-Fiction19171 mins

King George V hands out the traditional silver coins to the poor on Maundy Thursday.

Lowering Torpedo into Submarine E. 23
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Lowering Torpedo into Submarine E. 23

19177 mins

The improved E class submarine, E.23, takes on fresh torpedoes for another stealth mission in this WWI news film

Primeminister at Bath
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Primeminister at Bath

Non-Fiction19171 mins Location: Bath

Wartime wedding bells for Richard Lloyd George, son of the PM, at Bath Abbey.

Italian and Greek Troops in Action: Italians Decorated by Prince of Wales
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Italian and Greek Troops in Action: Italians Decorated by Prince of Wales

Government sponsored film19177 mins

Mysterious unidentified footage of troops in WW1 featuring a glimpse of Edward, Prince of Wales

Wreck of L. 39
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Wreck of L. 39

Non-Fiction19171 mins

French soldiers guard the wreck of the L.39 Zeppelin, brought down by Brought down in the Boulevard Gambetta, Compiegne

Lines of Communication
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Lines of Communication

Non-Fiction19171 mins

Entrenched support for the front lines: French engineers lay cables to enable HQ to direct troops from as far away as possible

St. David's Day
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St. David's Day

Non-Fiction19170 mins Location: Westminster

Welsh ladies selling St David's Day flags on the streets of Westminster brighten many a soldier's day.

United Service Sports
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United Service Sports

Non-Fiction19171 mins

Army athletes compete for glory on foot and bike.

Will There Be Women MPs?
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Will There Be Women MPs?

Non-Fiction19171 mins Location: London

The leading organisation fighting for women's suffrage changes tack, as Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst launch the Women's Party.

Potato Philanthropist
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Potato Philanthropist

Non-Fiction19171 mins

An East End celebrity hides in a hamper with some much-needed food for the women of the home front

Peter's Picture Poems
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Peter's Picture Poems

Animation & Artists Moving Image19173 mins

A star-spangled sock on the nose for Kaiser Wilhelm, as this wordplay propaganda cartoon meets war crimes with pun-ishment

Nation's Food - Meat
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Nation's Food - Meat

19178 mins

Where's the beef? The exotic origins of the British Sunday roast are explored in this short film about meat

Potato Queues
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Potato Queues

Non-Fiction19171 mins

The humble spud is the star attraction for the long lines of people waiting to fortify their wartime Sunday lunches

Sports on the Ice
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Sports on the Ice

Non-Fiction19171 mins

Nannies and nippers compete with seasoned skaters on a frozen pond near London in this charming wintery newsreel.

Toboganning
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Toboganning

Non-Fiction19171 mins

Hitting the north London slopes for some snow-filled excitement

Troops Training for the First World War
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Troops Training for the First World War

19179 mins

O Canada! Away from their native land, these troops are prepared for the Western Front at a Canadian Training School

Everybody's Business
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Everybody's Business

Government sponsored film191730 mins

"Eat less bread" is the key message in this ambitious propaganda film on the importance of 'food economy' to the war effort

Porte Flying Boat
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Porte Flying Boat

Documentary191711 mins

Don't be fooled - she's no baby. The Porte Baby's name belies the true size of this monster flying boat!

Airship on a Mooring Mast
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Airship on a Mooring Mast

19177 mins

High winds are not good for airships, especially when moored: this study demonstrates what happens when the winds blow

Agitated Adverts
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Agitated Adverts

Animation & Artists Moving Image191710 mins

Anson Dyer imagines the characters behind newspaper adverts and brings them to life in this Kine Komedy Kartoon

Drumhead Service
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Drumhead Service

Non-Fiction19170 mins Location: Haringey

A London concert singer attends a military religious service to bless two new ambulance held in a London park.

British Women's Volunteer Army (Land Workers' Section)
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British Women's Volunteer Army (Land Workers' Section)

Government sponsored film191714 mins

Film stars Violet Hopson and Ivy Close lend their celebrity to the war effort – and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty

Motherhood; A Living Picture of Life Today
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Motherhood; A Living Picture of Life Today

191729 mins

"Is this a pudding? It's more like a cannon ball" - Mary struggles to live up to her husband's high expectations

His Majesty's Visit to His Grand Fleet
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His Majesty's Visit to His Grand Fleet

Documentary19179 mins

Official film of George V's visit to his Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, Orkney

The King's Tour Round the Napier Motor Works
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The King's Tour Round the Napier Motor Works

19176 mins

George V checks the new-fangled "aero engines" are up to scratch in a West London factory

Entertaining Soldiers After the Raid
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Entertaining Soldiers After the Raid

Non-Fiction19170 mins

Keep calm and carry on - these East End schoolkids dance to lift the spirits of Kiwi troops

Workers Leaving Kodak Factory
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Workers Leaving Kodak Factory

Non-Fiction19174 mins

Workers at Kodak's photographic factory find themselves on the other side of the camera.

With the Queen at Woolwich
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With the Queen at Woolwich

Non-Fiction19171 mins Location: Woolwich

Women workers receive a visit from Queen Mary, as she inspects their work at the munitions factory in Woolwich.

Great Red Cross Carnival at Rushden
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Great Red Cross Carnival at Rushden

Non-Fiction19173 mins Location: Rushden

Flags and patriotism on show in Rushden as local businesses pull out all the stops in this carnival procession.

British Airships in the East
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British Airships in the East

Government sponsored film19175 mins

Equipped with two men and a string of bombs, the SS Class Airship was a rapid response to the threat of U-boats

Pacifists Routed at Brotherhood Church
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Pacifists Routed at Brotherhood Church

Non-Fiction19171 mins Location: Dalston

Windows are smashed, doors broken and blows exchanged, as a violent mob attacks a pacifist meeting held inside a Hackney church.

Parachute Experiments, Pulham Airship Station
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Parachute Experiments, Pulham Airship Station

191714 mins Location: Pulham

Soldiers of the Royal Naval Air Service make a leap of progress as new parachutes are put on trial

A Bid for Fortune
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A Bid for Fortune

Drama191784 mins

Master criminal Dr Nikola seeks a Chinese curio that promises eternal life and world domination

Masks and Faces
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Masks and Faces

Historical drama19170 mins

A strong cast of British stage luminaries enriches this tale of heartache and betrayal in 18th century London society

The Missing Link
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The Missing Link

Comedy19172 mins

British comic Lupino Lane stars in this surviving fragment from one of his earliest films, a slapstick school romp

London: Air Raid, 1917
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London: Air Raid, 1917

Non-Fiction19174 mins Location: City of London

Twisted metal, jagged wood and piles of rubble: the devastating aftermath of an air raid in London.

Pimple in the Whip
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Pimple in the Whip

Comedy191722 mins

Hilariously shambolic parody of an equestrian stage smash, by the prolific entertainer Pimple

Potato and Wheat Culture in England
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Potato and Wheat Culture in England

19176 mins

Man and horse work the earth to provide produce for the English plate

With the British Troops in Macedonia
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With the British Troops in Macedonia

Government sponsored film19178 mins

Troops overcome difficult terrain in this news film of the little-known WWI campaign in Macedonia

East Is East
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East Is East

Drama191771 mins

Charming tale of East End lovers divided by a not so lucky windfall, with beautiful scenes in the Kent hop fields.

Red Cross Fair
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Red Cross Fair

Non-Fiction191710 mins Location: Bath

The parasols and puppet shows are out in this joyful springtime gala for Bath's Red Cross hospitals

Sea-Plane Launching Apparatus
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Sea-Plane Launching Apparatus

19172 mins

A new aluminium design for military flying boats.