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Another of Richard Massingham’s snappy public information fillers finds the oafish everyman’s personal hygiene in question again.
This snappy public information filler finds Richard Massingham in the familiar role of the affable but oafish everyman with questionable standards of personal hygiene. Massingham’s voracious sneezing habit had already featured in the Ministry of Health-sponsored shorts Coughs and Sneezes, Influenza (1946) and Jet-Propelled Germs (1948).
Public health was high priority during and immediately after the war, as the government attempted to bolster a more robust, healthier nation with a film campaign targeting the spread of disease. Like the earlier films, Handkerchief Drill pairs Massingham's comically clueless character with an authoritative unseen commentator, who advises the sneezer's exasperated wife in a tongue-in-cheek take on the wartime Ministry of Information trailer: "Reason with him, be kind to him... and if that doesn't work, throw a bucket of cold water over him". A selection of over 20 films from one of British cinema’s most fascinating and enduring eccentrics is available on BFI DVD: How To Be Eccentric: The Selected Films of Richard Massingham. This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.