Shooting the Somme: how an iconic film was faked

Shooting the Somme: how an iconic film was faked

Bob Carruthers
ARRSE Rating
2.5 Mushroom Heads
'Shooting the Somme' is a book that tells the tale of how the famous war-time film 'The Battle of the Somme' was made. It was the first war film and, purportedly, captured the British attack on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It was released in the UK and, later, around the rest of the world, even as the battle raged on - 20 million people watched it in the UK alone. Even today, it remains the biggest box office draw in the history of cinema in the UK.

...except that some of it was faked. Carruthers painstakingly traces through the film and identifies which elements were real and which weren't. It turns out some of the most iconic scenes, including those that most people even today associate with their perception of trench warfare, were filmed a few days after the event, away from the front line in order to add drama to the film.

Carruthers also includes Geoffrey Malins' (the man who made the film) own account of his time in the front line. This reprint of his own account, 'How I Filmed the War' is fascinating, even if its tone is rather self-aggrandizing; indeed if everything in his account is true then he has either made a large amount of it up, embellished reality with myth or was the luckiest man on the Western Front.

My real issue with the book as a whole (and that which makes me mark it down so significantly) is that the whole book is a total swizz. The whole book (including Malins' account) comes in at 304 pages but Carruthers' efforts peter out after 49 pages! That's right - the man has written a 49 page book, padded it out with some-one else's reprint of a century old book, and then charged his readers £25 for the privilege. Not only that, but having promised the great reveal about how much of the film was faked, Carruthers then acknowledges that in 1922, a panel of experts acting for the War Office officially announced some of the footage as fake. So in summary we have, in effect, a 49 page book confirming the findings of an official committee 96 years late...

All this being said, I found the book interesting so if you spy it in a library, do pick up a copy.

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