Reviews - Bombs at Teatime
Bombs at Teatime
Reviewed By Paul Buttle
Despite the name of this film there are no bombs in it - but there’s plenty of tea. It’s not a film in the conventional sense, but a compilation, of short information films about England in the forties made against a background of war.
I’m only just a child of the forties - the late forties - yet these shorts had a dim familiarity to me. Apart from one, though, I doubt I’d ever seen them before - but the style in which they were produced seemed vaguely familiar. They were all produced by government agencies, principally the Ministry of Information, for instructional purposes and I must have seen hundreds of their type in the early fifties when my mother took me with her to the cinema each week - before our home acquired a television.
One short called “Tea Making Tips” is pretty scary stuff. A wild eyed chap in a white coat appears on the screen and fearsomely dictates the “six golden rules” of making a good cup of tea - and was obviously going to show no mercy to anyone who forgot them. No wonder watching films like that when I was a toddler made me think the world was a complex and daunting place.
The other shorts are: “Five Inch Bather” - a lesson on how to economise on water. “Two Cooks and a Cabbage” - in which two young girls do the cooking and their brothers naturally do the eating: “Christmas Under Fire” - the Christmas being 1940 which finishes with a very poignant shot of people sleeping in the Underground: and “The Countrywomen” a peaen of praise to a branch of the Women’s Institute somewhere in deepest East Anglia working tirelessly for the war effort, making - well, er jam.
Doing something for the “war effort” is the unstated aim of most of these shorts. Making the best of the little that was available - cutting down on waste. At the same time the films are very revealing of the period - when even working class men wore ties even when they were watching a football match; small boys wore shorts and their grannies wore pinnies. Several times I had the same reaction Scrooge had when he saw old Fezziwig - one of wistful delight.
I watched the film with a young French friend who said to me afterwards: “Now I know who the English are!”
“Well, it’s what we once were.” I said
Even though the film is a DVD we watched it on a cinema screen as it was one of the films our local film club had chosen to present this winter. I had no idea that we weren’t watching a celluloid film until there was a hitch and we were told the DVD had to be changed. It pulled in quite a large audience as lots of oldies came to see it. “A tribute to that endearing human trait of nostalgia” our club secretary said afterwards. It even drew that rare response from a cinema audience - a round of applause at the end.
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