Intriguingly bizarre film comparing the courtship and mating rituals of humans with those of animals.
Scenario and Direction by Mary Field. Music arranged by W.E. Hodgson. Recordist A.F. Birch. Photographed and Produced by British Instructional Films Ltd. Welwyn Garden City.
A man strolls through the countryside whistling a song which echoes that of a bird seen sitting on a twig. He discovers his girlfriend who is hiding in the woodland picking flowers. When he finds her he booms: "I knew it was you!" and embraces her. She objects: "No, no!" (even though she likes it!). "Oh Stella, why won't you marry me?" he implores. "There are such thousands and millions of people in the world" she replies, "how can we be sure that we are really made for one another?" C/U of the couple - he is a classic spiv with pencil thin moustache and she is a classic 1930s beauty. He promises Stella that he will get a rise and they will buy a house (she can choose the furniture). This would be a great sequence for illustrating love's young dream in the 1930s.
Narrator states: "Marriage, mating and the age old mystery of the universe. The secret of the attraction that draws one individual to another. This attraction is exercised by almost all living creatures and can be discovered even among the lower forces of life." We are then shown some microscope footage of mould! Time lapse photography is used to show how mould grows with a bizarre commentary about how mould searches for a partner but will only have a "cousinly embrace" if they meet a relative. Weird!
Time lapse photography of flowers growing (sweet peas?). Silly narration continues over these shots and footage of the Praying Mantis. A man preparing himself for "wooing" by polishing his hair and preening his moustache is compared to various animals including a Hunting Spider. Various C/Us of the spider capturing and wrapping up his prey. These are intercut with shot of man wrapping flowers (like the fly, a gift for his intended).
The mating techniques of the predatory spider are compared with those of humans. A young woman sitting in a bar on her own eyes up a man who sits at her table. He asks her "what's yours?" and she flirtatiously replies: "Well, I don't know". He buys her a glass of stout.
The mating rituals of sticklebacks, peacocks and other birds are compared to humans. "New spring clothes can encourage the shyest suitor to take up a courageous attitude in courtship" we are informed over nice shots of a man in a striped blazer strutting and chasing a women. He catches her beside a haystack and kisses her passionately.
A peacock displaying its tail is compared to a man in tails. Narrator discusses the fact that in the animal world strange choices are sometimes made in mates. A tall woman and a short man are used to show that this happens with humans too!
The antlers of a deer remind us that in courtship there is rivalry. Labyrinth spiders are shown. The narrator points out that they are apparently happy but the male is making no effort to entertain his mate. As the narrator observes: "It is fatal to allow anything feminine to become bored".
Interior of a railway station tea bar or similar. Signs for Oxo and Bovril visible behind the counter. A man in a white coat gives a male customer some horseracing tips. Woman leans on the counter looking sultry as a man in the foreground admires her. She is obviously bored with her mate. C/U of a spiders web with 2 or 3 spiders scuttling around it - implication being that she is trying to entrap the new man on the scene. She continues to pose. Another man comes to the counter and he and the woman look each other up and down. The man is served a cup of tea. The woman gives him her best "come hither" look. She bats her eyelids, he looks keen - licking his lips. The woman's mate stands up to his full height looking menacing, he grabs the woman's arm and moves her away along the counter.
C/U of a spider's web - one spider chases another. C/U of a fight between two female Praying Mantis - they are fighting over a man. The next section illustrates female rivalry. C/U of a woman's hand as she uses her fingers to take beauty cream from various pots on her dressing table. C/U of another woman's hands as she applies powder to her puff. C/U of a young woman applying lipstick. Shot of an older woman's reflection in the mirror as she applies lipstick. The two glamorous women are seen at their dressing tables making themselves look gorgeous. L/S of older woman standing up - she wears a long black evening gown and pearls. She fluffs out a long back train which drifts along behind her as she walks. She opens the door to another room to reveal a younger woman at another dressing table. The second woman stands up and as she does so the shoulder strap of her dress falls down revealing her shoulder. C/U of the first woman giving her a sultry stare - lesbians perhaps? or just love rivals. "That dress still look charming" states the elder - a cutting remark I suppose! C/U of the female Praying Mantis.
L/S of deer fighting - two males fighting over supremacy. Some young does watch. C/U of a woman who looks in a state of sexual arousal as she smiles and leans backwards hanging on to a fence, watching the start of a motorbike race. (This is all very strange stuff!) Various shots of a motorcycle race intercut with reaction shots of the female spectator. Quite fast editing. Very Eisenstein! The last shot of the woman is quite a contrast. She turns her head very slowly towards the camera. The mastery of the male! Next shot is a big C/U of a flower being turned towards the camera. Extreme C/U of flower - a gladiolus, presumably suggesting female genitalia to those in the know! Colour and form attract bees "that act as marriage makers." C/U of cells (?) C/U of the gladiolus. A wasp pops in and out of the flower collecting pollen. C/Us of a sweet pea. C/U of a model of a sweet pea in section. Tweezers are used to press down one of the petals which makes the stamen move out of the flower. The action is repeated. The tweezers point to part of the flower and through stop frame animation pollen appears on the flower.
M/S of a very dapper man in a suit smelling a flower he has in his button hole. He smiles to himself and looks roguish. C/U of the model of the flower. Our old friend "Bertie" - a model bee seen in several "Secrets of Nature" films appears and lands on the model flower. He presses down the petal, so forcing out the stamen which deposits pollen on Bertie's body. Bertie flies off. M/S of a beautiful woman dressed in a wedding gown with ornate head dress and veil. She turns demurely and looks at the camera. C/U of Bertie landing on the flower again. C/U of roguish man and "Stella" in an embrace. "The marriage has now been solemnised" states the narrator - is that what you call it?! The couple kiss passionately. He forces her backwards and they both disappear off frame as if she has sunk onto a bed!
C/U of pollen grains under a microscope. They grow long stalks then shoot out powder. C/U of more pollen grains. C/U of a graphic illustration of the pollination of a pea pod. We see a real pea pod growing through time lapse photography. We then see the pea pod opening out and the peas popping off one by one. C/U of a bean. C/U of Praying Mantis on a twig. C/U of the end of the insect from which a foamy substance is being produced. This attaches itself to the twig. Extreme C/U of the revolting foam stuff! This is a cushioning substance for the young of the insect. Cut to extreme C/U of woman knitting (just her hands and large amount of knitted fabric). Repeat of these two images - comparing human mother with insect mother. L/S of the insect on the twig. L/S of the woman knitting - she is sitting in an armchair in a living room setting. M/S of the eggs or pupae which are inside a piece of wood. Various C/Us of spider climbing along a twig. Extreme C/U of bulbous body of the spider - she carries babies in a cocoon. C/U of a stone being lifted up to reveal an earwig and eggs. C/U of earwig burrowing to make a hidey hole for her eggs. The earwig puts the eggs one by one into the burrow. Underwater shots of a stickleback moving twigs and other plant matter around to make a kind of nest. One fish can be seen inside the plant nest whilst another swims around protecting his mate who is presumably laying her eggs. L/S of a bird (some sort of grebe?) approaching its nest. M/S of three gulls sitting on cliffs. Various shots of birds and their nests. Various shots of a squirrel sitting on a branch and of its nest.
L/S of a man building a primitive dwelling from bamboo or similar wood. The man is black and dressed in a simple robe. M/S of middle eastern men building a wall of mud. Narrator speaks of "building a lair" M/S of a caucasian man in a raincoat and hat looking at a building site with a sign which reads: "Bijou Baronial Halls - Miniature Manorial Mansions Ã¯Â¿Â½400 to Ã¯Â¿Â½700. Ã¯Â¿Â½10 down balance as rent. Carter & Field, Heavensville." M/S of three people sitting around an office table. This is presumably a young married couple in the office of Carter & Field enquiring about a new home. They are told that the lino will be laid free, Ã¯Â¿Â½10 down and Ã¯Â¿Â½50 instalments of a pound will sort things out and their furniture will be delivered in a plain van...
This section is about the young of plants and animals. Nature film of poppy seeds being tipped out of a seed head, a butterfly laying eggs on a mouldy pear, caterpillars hatching and snails leaving shells. Cheese mite struggling out of an egg, frog spawn developing through time lapse photography and newly hatched alligator. Plants drop their seeds, cucumber seedling seen growing in slow motion as is a cress seed. Earwig seen guarding her young. Hunting spider seen spinning cocoon. Baby spiders seen hatching - yeuch! Stickleback - devoted father - guards nest with eggs inside. Sticklebacks hatch and swim around. Various birds are seen feeding their young - these shots are intercut with footage of a woman leaving a bakery and going home to prepare a meal for her family. C/Us of her peeling potatoes. Mother sits at table with a babe in arms and other children around her. C/Us of the mother spooning food into open mouths of her children - just like baby birds.
Rabbits in a warren, cows, goats and horses with their young. Kangaroos that carry their babies in a pouch are compared with certain human tribes that carry babies in papooses.
Dandelion clock seen in C/U to illustrate creatures growing up and leaving home. The opening and closing of a seed head is seen through time lapse photography. The seeds fly through the air then land on the ground. The "parachute" opens and closes according to the amount of water in the air. Wild oats are seen growing through time lapse. Seeds drop off the stem: "Wild oats do actually sow wild oats" states the narrator then congratulates himself: "Oh, very good!" The thistle seed is seen in C/U. The progress of the seed through the air is shown through models.
Hunting spider is seen encouraging its young to leave the nest by biting holes in the web. Narrator speaks of the desire of the young to leave the home. The stickleback babies swim around and a baby goat is encouraged to explore. A posh young boy is seen in an upper class home. Mother is heard saying: "Now you can have a nice afternoon sitting down and reading your book". He seems more interested in a girl who is beckoning him from some rose bushes outside! He attempts to creep out without his mother seeing him but she catches him out! "Independence takes a long time for some of us to achieve" states the narrator.
Birds leave their nests. Some learn to fly. A little girl hides behind a tree trunk and powders her nose: "Actually growing up is only copying what we see adults do" states the narrator. He speaks of how some birds find it difficult to leave the nest - not so for the human bird! A glamorous girl jumps into a car with her boyfriend and speeds off leaving her distraught mother on the doorstep! Funny! Married couple walk through the countryside pushing a pram - it is the couple from the beginning. They spot another courting couple who sit on the fence where they used to sit. "It's a mystery this marriage business" states the man. Certainly is! Not made much clearer by this film really!
Note: A very bizarre and mysterious film. Where was it shown? In schools like the other Secrets of Nature films? Surely not?! If anyone knows more about this film please let us know. Percy Smith shot most of the nature footage in this film. Pathe have only reel 2 on film (described in records c, d and e). National Film and Television Archive holds complete copy - 3 reels.