A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



No. 45. 17th June 1943


At the request of the Films Division of this Ministry, Intelligence Officers were asked on 5th April to find out public reactions to the film “Subject for Discussion”, No. 5 of the “Into Battle” series.

Most of the Intelligence Officers report that, up to the beginning of June, only a small number of their contacts had personally seen the film, and only a few had heard other people discussing it. The film had not yet been shown in some areas, and in the Eastern and South Western Regions it had only been shown in a very few places.

The film as a medium for this kind of propaganda

Almost everybody agrees with the policy of bringing V.D. to the notice of the public, and that films are a good medium for arousing interest and “getting over” ideas. It is strongly felt that “Subject for Discussion” should be followed up with other films on the same lines.

The only people reported to be against showing “such horrible things” are some “elderly and old-fashioned” people, and the inhabitants of Prestatyn (Flints), who have not yet seen the film but think it unnecessary and likely to do more harm than good.

The film itself

There is general and considerable praise for the film, which is described as “well put over”.... “a difficult subject well handled”.... “straight to the point”.... “clear and instructive”..... “forewarned is forearmed”. Opinion differs, however, as to whether it was frank enough; some consider that the subject is tackled boldly with no false modesty; others wanted a less “old womanish approach”. The latter feel that “what was intended to be conveyed was too hidden”, and that for poorer people especially, who seem quite uninterested, “much more simple language and clear explanation is needed”. The following instances of misunderstandings are quoted. A woman thought she had V.D. when in fact she was suffering from pyorrhoea. A doctor and his wife saw the film with their 13 and 15 year old children; on leaving the cinema, the children immediately urged their parents to attend a clinic for the necessary tests.

How effective will it be ?

The main criticism of the film is that it is not strong or horrific enough. Many feel that “more of the terrible consequences of the disease on the people themselves” should be shown. Men, particularly, it is suggested, “are not always interested in possible effects on posterity”. On the other hand, others approve of “the wife and child angle” as likely to have a most important effect, and feel that the film “cannot fail to bring home to all who see it the dangers arising from failure on the part of people suffering from the disease to seek early advice and treatment”.

Only a very small minority refer to the film as “too horrific”. It is said to have led to one or two cases of girls in the audience fainting or being “otherwise distressed”.

One report mentions the belief that the showing of “Tommy Trinder and his Nine Women” in aid of War Savings is likely to undo the good done by “Subject for Discussion”.

Why is only the cure dealt with, not prevention ?

Reports from five Regions suggest that more emphasis should have been laid on the need for purity of living, rather than on “the pleasantness and ease of cure”. Or, at least, if continence, the first line of defence has been surrendered, the second line of defence - contraceptives or other protective measures - should also have been dealt with.

Audiences' reactions

The film has been favourably received and there is some comment on “the dead silence following its showing”. Although three reports refer to some self-conscious giggling and one report to a minority feeling that the film was frank to the point of crudeness, the general view is that the public were not embarrassed by it.

Young people

The public on the whole seem to think it a good thing for young people of 14 years of age and upwards to see the film. Parents have encouraged their children to go. It is felt that where older boys and girls might only partly understand and be puzzled, they would ask their parents the rest - and the film advocates frankness in such matters. In the North of Scotland, however, parents were horrified “to find their children suddenly talking of ‘V.Ds’ and their consequences”.

Cinema Managers

Most managers seemed to have no objection to showing the film. Some considered it a draw, while others thought it had not got “the same high entertainment value of other ‘Into Battle’ films”. In the Northern, North Eastern, Midland and North Western Regions, one or two managers refused to show the film because: (i) they thought it unsuitable for mixed audiences, (ii) by doing so, they would not be able to admit children, which would interfere with their takings, (iii) they had received instructions from their head offices.

Additional questions

At a public meeting at Droylsden (N.W. Region), the following additional questions were asked by members of the public:-

1. When a patient has finished treatment, can the disease come back again?

2. Is it possible to be immunised against V.D., as in the case of typhoid?

3. Should prophylactics be issued to the Services? Are they really a safeguard?

4. Are the diseases less prevalent in countries where prostitution is legalised?


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