Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Donald C. Thompson's "War As It Really Is" (USA, 1916)

First shown at the prestigious Rialto in New York City in October 1916, Donald C. Thompson's seven reel feature film War As It Really Is was a self-made project. Produced and marketed by the Donald C. Thompson Company, in collaboration with Leslie's Weekly, the film showed some of the most gruesome sights of the Great War.

Intertitle from Thompson's film War As It Really Is (1916)

"In the Jaws of Death"

"Much detail is clearly screened in the corpses and skeletons piled about deserted fortifications", commented a review by Motion Picture News. Starting with some remarkable aerial views of the Entente fleet at Thessaloniki, Thompson's film covered the western front from the French side. Press reports indicated he was at the Somme battlefield on July 2, 1916, when he was severely wounded by by a piece of shell. A print of the movie has survived in the U.S. Signal Corps collection of the National Archives in Washington, DC. To give an idea of the frontline footage we have uploaded scenes on YouTube from reel 7 following the intertitle "In the Jaws of Death", showing a French infantry attack on the German lines under heavy artillery fire. The film clip has been edited with a contemporary score by composer Gustav Holst from his musical suite The Planets/Mars.

Thompson's war films have been described in more detail in our latest book American Cinematographers in the Great War

Also, here is a download link to the production file of Thompson's war movie, from the collection of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. 


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