A follow up to this post on an outdoor film screening in Trafalgar Square.
After many weeks of working in my room, cycling in to Trafalgar Square thursday of last week was a bit of a shock to the system , rediscovering such a wide sea of humanity beyond the shores of my little island studio.
The British silent science fiction feature High Treason lived up to expectations visually, low budget compared with Metropolis, but fun and inventive. My favourite item in the film was an adding machine the size of a church organ that looked like the work of Dr Seuss. The plot, though, was even more kitsch than the design, an anti-war fantasy with the all-too familiar notion of an international conspiracy of back room money men manoeuvring governments into war, and profiting via the arms industry.
The cigar-smoking conspirators weren’t identified, though I’m sure we can make a pretty good guess at who the film makers had in mind. Reference is made to their conspiracy being a repeat of 1914. I was reminded of the notorious and nauseating anti-Semitic passage in the first chapter of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, sensibly omitted from Hitchcock’s film. I wonder did the film of High Treason omit similar detail from the source play by Noel Pemberton Billing?
The story of High Treason anticipated quite closely the conspiracy theories popular in today’s anti-war movement, as it shows agitators in the pay of the warmongering conspirators carry out a false-flag terrorist attack on a landmark target, the Channel Tunnel. It could have been titled Truthers of 1929.
As a result of this war is about to be declared, but luckily for humanity women peace campaigners invade an air base, and the wise and saintly head of the peace movement assassinates the leader of the country. This combination of civil disobedience and political violence brings about world peace. But you can’t buck the system, so, with tears in their eyes, the jury at his trial find the white-haired old peace campaigner guilty of murder. The martyr accepts his death sentence, a halo round his head.
The end, at last.