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.
No Mischief Here Can Satan Find for Idle Hands to DoNo Mischief Here Can Satan Find for Idle Hands to Do
Pathe's series on WWI turns its eye homeward in this edition about the interning of enemy aliens
History of the War: The Birth Place of the Great WarHistory of the War: The Birth Place of the Great War
Episode of Pathé's series on WWI, focused on the outbreak of hostilities between Austria and Serbia
Amateur film191726 mins
Can film fight? In this fascinating amateur footage, King George sends officers to the front with reels and projectors
War191723 mins Location: London
Lively blood and thunder yarn in which German spies try to destroy London's air defences
The improved E class submarine, E.23, takes on fresh torpedoes for another stealth mission in this WWI news film
Italian and Greek Troops in Action: Italians Decorated by Prince of WalesItalian 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
Entrenched support for the front lines: French engineers lay cables to enable HQ to direct troops from as far away as possible
Non-Fiction19171 minsSilent Location: London
The leading organisation fighting for women's suffrage changes tack, as Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst launch the Women's Party.
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
O Canada! Away from their native land, these troops are prepared for the Western Front at a Canadian Training School
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
Animation & Artists Moving Image191710 mins
Anson Dyer imagines the characters behind newspaper adverts and brings them to life in this Kine Komedy Kartoon
Non-Fiction19170 minsSilent 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)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
"Is this a pudding? It's more like a cannon ball" - Mary struggles to live up to her husband's high expectations
George V checks the new-fangled "aero engines" are up to scratch in a West London factory
Keep calm and carry on - these East End schoolkids dance to lift the spirits of Kiwi troops
Non-Fiction19171 minsSilent Location: Woolwich
Women workers receive a visit from Queen Mary, as she inspects their work at the munitions factory in Woolwich.
Non-Fiction19173 minsSilent Location: Rushden
Flags and patriotism on show in Rushden as local businesses pull out all the stops in this carnival procession.
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
Non-Fiction19171 minsSilent Location: Dalston
Windows are smashed, doors broken and blows exchanged, as a violent mob attacks a pacifist meeting held inside a Hackney church.
191714 mins Location: Pulham
Soldiers of the Royal Naval Air Service make a leap of progress as new parachutes are put on trial
Non-Fiction19174 mins Location: City of London
Twisted metal, jagged wood and piles of rubble: the devastating aftermath of an air raid in London.
Government sponsored film19178 mins
Troops overcome difficult terrain in this news film of the little-known WWI campaign in Macedonia