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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oustanding reference book to a vital piece of film history
This important book fulfils a vital service by taking the 1916 documentary film `The Battle of the Somme' filmed on location by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell , and placing it under the strictest and most exacting historical scrutiny.

The film was used for propaganda purposes, and was seen by a major proportion of the British public at the time. Its images...
Published on 16 April 2009 by Withnail67

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, thorough and an excellent companion to the film
An insightful investigation into the film making of 1916 by two cameraman - pioneers of conflict reportage. A shot by shot description of where the camera was looking with many 'before and after' photots, 1916/2007. Few views though of the consequences of showing the film or changes made on what to show, what to leave out and where 'drama reconstruction' as we would call...
Published 15 months ago by Jonathan F. Vernon


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oustanding reference book to a vital piece of film history, 16 April 2009
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Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916 (Hardcover)
This important book fulfils a vital service by taking the 1916 documentary film `The Battle of the Somme' filmed on location by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell , and placing it under the strictest and most exacting historical scrutiny.

The film was used for propaganda purposes, and was seen by a major proportion of the British public at the time. Its images have, for good or ill, become part of the collective memory of the Great War: the explosion of the massive mine at Hawthorn Ridge redoubt; the eyes of a soldier struggling to carry a wounded man along a trench, and the advance of troops through barbed wire feature in nearly every visual evocation of the Western Front. (The latter images are particularly controversial and the book surely closes the debate on their provenance).

The book follows closely the disparate trail of evidence that suggests where and when the footage was shot. Key to this is the account left by Malins himself, a crib sheet assembled soon after the war, and most importantly for this book, a sequence of still photographs now part of the Imperial War Museum collection taken in parallel with Malins and McDowell's footage. These shots form the backbone of the book, and often identify locations and units left anonymous by the film.

The resulting integration of these sources is the best account of the film and the scenes it depicts. It is a significant further step on from the IWM viewing guide edited by Roger Smither in the early 1990s. The technical problems of filming are well covered and the authors have even enlisted the help of lip-reading specialists to allow the true lost voices of the Somme generation to be `heard' again after nearly a century.

A masterpiece, and central to our Somme library.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific analysis of iconic film, 27 July 2009
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Chris Baker "The Long, Long Trail man" (Leamington Spa, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916 (Hardcover)
The film "The Battle of the Somme" remains of great interest today as an icon and documentary of the period. Officially produced for propaganda purposes, it was a huge box office attraction in 1916, seen by millions at home as the battle continued to rage in France. It was even watched by the troops, in the safety of the rear areas. Certain clips from the film will be all too familiar to anyone who watches modern TV coverage of the war, for they are seen over and over again. The enormous fountain of earth exploding into the sky above the Hawthorn ridge, and advancing infantry going "over the top", with men tripping and apparently dying in their own wire, feature in virtually every production. But in the latter instance it is only "apparently", for parts of the film were faked.

Drawing on the film, photographs taken at the same times and places, and the cameramen's notes (including the memoir of the film maker Geoffrey Malins), "Ghosts on the Somme" is a painstaking detailed analysis of every second of the film. The authors have attempted to identify the places, dates and times, units involved and individuals. The shots that are faked - in some cases many miles behind the lines - are identified, too. It makes for fascinating reading. The book could be quite hard going without the dozens of photographs, film stills and "then and now" photos that it serve to illustrate the points; they are carefully chosen and make the book stand out.

Overall it is an admirable piece of work and a very good book. It is perhaps, given the level of detail, one for Great War or film buffs rather than the general reader or WW1 beginner, but most would find it enjoyable and thought-provoking reading. It certainly adds something new to the plethora of analysis and publications covering 1 July 1916. Surely no other day in military history has received and continues to receive such depth of research.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghosts on the Somme EXCELLENT, 24 Mar. 2009
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Birmingham Pal (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916 (Hardcover)
As a regular visitor to the Somme battlefields with a keen interest in the 'Battle of the Somme' film produced in 1916, I found this book very, very absorbing indeed. Thanks to the authors I can now follow in the footsteps of the official kinematographers Malins and McDowell and stand in nearly the exact spot where filming took place or retrace the steps of those soldiers seen in the film.

In my reckoning an essential book for any person who has an interest in the British Army of WW1 and especially the Kitchener's New Army troops who were decimated on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July, 1916.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Study of the Iconic, 19 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916 (Hardcover)
We have all seen the black and white clip of a huge explosion throwing thousands of tons of earth up from the skyline in most TV and films covering the Great War. How many know where and when the original was taken? This book will tell you. The book is the result of forensic research in the film, 'Battle of the Somme'. A Britsh goverment's first attempt to present a managed propagnda project to the public. The group No Man's Land is a mixed bunch of proffesional and ameturs dedicated to the study of the Great War. This book illustrates another side of their archeological work, the study and interpretation of records.
It is slightly more dry and technical than the Group's previous work 'Digging the Trenches', but illustrates that though being up to your knees in mud may be good TV and seem exciting, struggeling with musty old papers is just as important in trying to understand.

The film is examined section by section, with comments on the units, and even individuals where they can be traced. The one draw back is that reading the book will make you want to study the film again, and the Imperial War Museum charge a fortune for a copy. For those of us who watch any film with even the slightest 'military' content, just to pick holes in continuity and details, this book is heaven!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, thorough and an excellent companion to the film, 19 Oct. 2013
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An insightful investigation into the film making of 1916 by two cameraman - pioneers of conflict reportage. A shot by shot description of where the camera was looking with many 'before and after' photots, 1916/2007. Few views though of the consequences of showing the film or changes made on what to show, what to leave out and where 'drama reconstruction' as we would call it today, would be necessary and justified,
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 20 July 2014
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This review is from: Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916 (Hardcover)
Superb analysis of what Malins did and not do.
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Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916
Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916 by Steve Roberts (Hardcover - 19 Mar. 2009)
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