This film is part of Free

Fear and Peter Brown

Terror on the home front - literally - in this heady and eccentric brew.

Documentary 1940 16 mins


There's terror on the home front - literally the home front - in this heady concoction brewed by the brilliantly eccentric Richard Massingham. A somewhat overripe blend of child psychology and anti-Nazi propaganda, laced with touches of noirish chiaroscuro, dreamlike surrealism and Grand Guignol, builds to an almost cosmic crescendo. Moral: "The understanding of fear is the beginning of courage."

The tribulations of our neurotic hero, Peter Brown, dramatise the point that too many parents "have a wrong attitude", unknowingly instilling a lifelong fear of the world into their offspring - which, as exploited by the Nazis, has tipped a whole continent over the edge… Heady stuff indeed: director Massingham, best known for bite-size comedy public information films, tackles more than he can chew in this deadly serious fifteen-minute piece. Fascinating stuff even so: a characteristically idiosyncratic contribution to the war effort from Massingham, and a consciously progressive (for its time) effort at spreading the gospel of modern child development theory via the medium of cinema. 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.