• Short Summary

    Excellent documentary showing the environmental effects of air pollution.

  • Description

    c. 1954

    Reels 1 & 2 (spliced together). Documentary about air pollution commissioned by the Gas Council. Produced by the Pathe Documentary Unit. Devised and written by Jack Howells. Director - Gerard Bryant. Cameraman - Reg. W. Cavendar. Editor - A. Milner-Gardner. Music - Edward Williams. Conducted by - Marcus Dodds. Sound - William S. Bland and George Newberry.

    Picturesque landscape. Farmer smoking a pipe walks alongside a river with his dog. He approaches his home - a country cottage with smoke emerging from the chimney. Voiceover talks in lyrical tones of how man has learned to "not to cast his waste upon the earth he lives by..." and to keep his food and water sweet and clean. "But what of the air?" Montage of shots of smoking chimneys, houses and industrial chimneys, smoke billowing through the air.

    Night shots of cars being directed through dark smoggy streets by traffic warden with flares. The narrator claims to be a "Medical Officer's Help." Shots inside a hospital - nurses and doctors at work. Doctor answers the telephone which is an enquiry as to whether they have any empty beds. Nurses make up a bed. Ambulance driving through the smoggy night. Very dramatic narration about the fact that the ambulance is not bringing the victim of an accident but of "manslaughter, or if you like murder" Narrator lays the blame for London smog and the "pea souper" on air pollution. Shots of a man on a stretcher being lifted from an ambulance into the hospital. C/Us of x-rays on light boxes - doctor points to diseased areas with a pen. Pathology lab. Two sections of lung are displayed - one healthy, one diseased: "you don't have to be a doctor to tell which is the one."

    Medical Officer talks of his role in "prevention" C/U of child having his mouth examined - at the dentist? Good shots of children having treatment for tuberculosis (?) they wear sunglasses and play near a strong artificial sunlight lamp. Children are given glasses of orange juice. C/U of young children drinking glasses of orange juice. Various shots of children in hospital being weighed. Baby cries.

    Montage of shots of industrial landscapes, slum housing, terraced streets with smoking chimneys etc. Medical Officer states: "Where the sun enters the Doctor doesn't." He talks of the need for sunlight for good health. Various shots of buildings being cleaned until they stand out "like a bride at a funeral". Long monologue about the evils of smoky skies.

    Woman stands in her living room ironing. There is a knock at the door and the woman goes to answer it. C/U of the coal man coming into the house. He is covered with coal dust and looks filthy. Great montage of coal being brought in and woman putting it on her fire with damning voiceover about the evils of coal. C/U of the fire burning away.

    New narrator in a laboratory talks about sulphurous acid and how it reacts with limestone and fabric. Drops are placed on a piece of material and it burns holes through it. The destruction wreaked by the acid on buildings is described and illustrated by photographs and samples of stone and wire attacked by pollution. A piece of limestone is placed into sulphurous acid and parts of it are eaten away immediately. Cleopatra's Needle is used as an example of how buildings and relics are damaged. Continued.

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  • Data

    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    British Pathé
    Issue Date:
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Black & White
    Time in/Out:
    01:43:04:00 / 01:50:59:00

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