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DVD: Ration Books and Rabbit Pies - Films from the Home Front | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Ration Books and Rabbit Pies - Films from the Home Front

DVD: Ration Books and Rabbit Pies - Films from the Home Front

Assorted wartime propaganda shorts, high on entertainment value

Assisting the Bosch: Little Miss Muddlehead

Up to 1942, British civilian deaths outnumbered those among front line troops. Keeping the home front on side was a serious business, especially when a large chunk of the population might have been reluctant to obey the strict rules and regulations imposed by a government desperate to save money and resources whilst maintaining morale. This capacious BFI anthology contains nearly 30 short films commissioned by the Ministry of Information. Nothing here is as well crafted as anything directed by Humphrey Jennings or Richard Massingham, but much still resonates in a modern age of austerity.

Cookery Hints: Oatmeal Porridge shows breakfast preparation to be an arduous task, inviting conscientious housewives to construct hayboxes so that watery porridge can be cooked for free overnight. Tea Making Tips will resonate with anyone who's endured a lousy brew. Len Lye's poetic When the Pie Was Opened is a joy, and we get a smattering of Food Flashes, 30 second films explaining how milk can be kept fresh, and exactly why cod-liver oil is a taste worth acquiring. The need to economise is best explained in the technically impressive Did You Ever See A Dream Talking, starring multiple Claude Hulberts as a wasteful twit harangued by his two guardian angels.

Elsewhere, mistreating valuable clothes is compared to sabotage, and there's a beguiling natural history film showing how the frugal habits of insects could be usefully adopted by wartime humans. ABCD of Health and Round Figures use animation to explain the health benefits of vitamins and warn against the dangers of poor posture. An early Halas & Bachelor short stresses the importance of recycling. Quirkiest is Little Miss Muddlehead, an antediluvian 1943 advert for Rinso detergent filmed as a live action cartoon. You'll never be tempted to 'boil the wash' again. Transfers and sound are clean, and the BFI's documentation is exemplary.

Overleaf: watch Tea Making Tips

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