Each year Ian runs a six week film course at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on a variety of topics related to War Film Propaganda.

Courses held over the last few years were as follows:

2013 Nazi Film Propaganda: Exploding the Myths

2014 Allied Film Propaganda V German Film Propaganda

2015 World War Two Film Propaganda: Mixing Fact and Fiction


The 2016 course is entitled:-

“The Enemy Within – Spies, Fifth-Columnists and Communists”

This year’s course features six major films (3 British/American and 3 German) produced in and around the war years, together with a couple of short propaganda films made by Hitchcock for a French audience and also a short American information film. As the title suggests, the overriding theme centres on the activities of what each side considered to be those groups or individuals acting against the best interests of their respective countries.

The format of each class will generally follow the same lines – a short, illustrated introduction to the film to be screened that session; the screening of the film itself; and then a more detailed exploration of some of the more interesting and little-known aspects of each film – such as how the film came to be made, its link with what was happening at the time, the background to key actors etc. Finally, the session will be opened up to general discussion. Where the main film to be screened is quite short in length, a shorter film will be added to that session.

The full programme, including summary information about the films to be screened, is included below.

To meet the different preferences of attendees the course will be run on Tuesday afternoons and repeated on Thursday evenings.

The afternoon classes will start on Tuesday 12th April and finish on 17th May. They will run from 2pm to 4.15pm.

The evening classes will start on Thursday 14th April and run from 7pm to 9.15pm. Because of the Scottish Parliament Election there will be no class on Thursday 5th May and so the final Thursday class will be on 26th May.

The cost of the course will be £38.

If you are interested in attending the course, then please contact Ian as soon as possible at contactme@iangarden.co.uk indicating whether you wish to attend the afternoon or the evening sessions, although in practice it is possible to ‘mix and match’.


Filmhouse Film Classes 2016 – Programme

The Enemy Within – Spies, Fifth Columnists and Communists”.

The purpose of this year’s course is to view and discuss 6 important feature films (3 Allied and 3 German) and a number of shorter films released before or during the Second World War which all share, to a greater or larger extent, the common theme of groups or individuals who are either working as spies or are considered to be acting against the interests of either Britain, America or Germany.

The specific films selected have been chosen partly in response to earlier questionnaires and also as a result of high quality versions of some of the German films only recently becoming available. All of the films are thrillers and the subject matter covers a mix of politics, intrigue and romance. The three German films are still banned from general screening in Germany today.

Each session will begin with a brief, illustrated introduction to the film to be shown and finish with a short presentation about some of the more interesting aspects of the film and a general discussion. Each class will normally run for 2¼ hours but this may over-run slightly depending on the length of the main film. As usual, all of the German films have English subtitles. The cost of the course is £38.

Week1 – The Spy in Black (1939)

Directed by Michael Powell and produced by Alexander Korda, this classic spy story is set during the First World War and was released in Britain just a few weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War. It stars Conrad Veidt as the German spy, Valerie Hobson and Marius Goring. Veidt had been forced to flee Nazi Germany for Britain following his marriage to a Jewish woman in 1933. He was to become a British citizen in 1938.

Week 2 – Hans Westmar, Einer von Vielen (Hans Westmar – One of Many) (1933)

One of the best known and most influential of Nazi films, Hans Westmar tells the story of the early struggle between the Communists and the National Socialists to gain control in Germany. Set in 1929, the film is roughly based on the life of one of the Nazis’ greatest heroes, Horst Wessel. Wessel was the author of the infamous Horst Wessel song. Goebbels was initially so incensed by the content of the film, which he felt simply failed to do justice to the memory of such a great man, that he ordered the film to be banned in October, 1933. However, after a great deal of editing it was re-released in December 1933. The film which we will be screening is a recently restored edition of that re-released version. The crowd and funeral scenes required thousands of extras and were so effectively filmed that many watching the film at the time were convinced that these scenes were taken from actual newsreel footage of the events. Hence, the film was very successful as a propaganda weapon.

Mr Blabbermouth (1942)

This week’s class will finish with a screening of this short American information film which fits in well with the American film, Saboteur, which will be shown the following week.

Week 3 – Saboteur (1942)

Set at a time just before America had entered the war, this all-American 1942 thriller is a typical Hitchcock masterpiece. It tells the story of a Los Angeles aircraft worker, played by Robert Cummings, who is wrongly accused of setting fire to his aircraft factory. In an attempt to clear his name and expose the true villains the fast moving plot transports the viewer across various levels of American society before a breath-taking climax at the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Week 4 – Pour le Mérite (For Merit) (1938)

Directed by Karl Ritter, one of the Nazis’ most prolific directors, Pour le Mérite has been described as the purest of all Nazi films. Based on his own experience of returning defeated and demoralised to a Germany in the throes of Communist insurrection after the First World War, the film traces the fate of a number of pilots returning from the front, their often vain search for employment and fulfilment and, ultimately, Germany’s rise from the despair of the Weimar Republic with the triumphant arrival of Adolf Hitler. For a British audience, the film, released in 1938, reveals a surprising and even ambivalent attitude towards the British in this period immediately prior to the Second World War.

Week 5 – Background to Danger (1943)

The 1942 classic Casablanca had been a great success for Warner Brothers and the 1943 Background to Danger is one of a number of lesser known off-shoots which tried to capitalise on the success of Casablanca. Although the hero is now played by George Raft rather than Humphrey Bogart, key roles were found for Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in this film. Set in Syria, this thriller follows the exploits of a number of spies and agents all set on seizing papers which the Nazis wanted to release – papers which would provide embarrassing evidence that the Soviets were about to invade Turkey.

Bon Voyage (1944)

This week there will also be a screening of a short French film with English subtitles made by Hitchcock for the Ministry of Information. The purpose of the film was to encourage the French Resistance.

Week 6 – Über Alles in der Welt (Above Everything in the World) (1941)

This film was released in March 1941 at a time when Germany was fully at war with Britain, and France had already surrendered. It is no exaggeration to claim that this is one of the most propaganda-filled films ever produced by the Nazis. From stereotypical attacks on the character and ambitions of the British, French, Jews and Communists to the Nazis’ very justification for being at war and, indeed, Germany’s success in that war, there is hardly a scene which does not carry some hidden or not so hidden pro-Nazi message. The film was directed by Karl Ritter and features a whole host of well-known German stars including Paul Hartmann and Carl Raddatz.

Aventure Malgache (1944)

The course will conclude with another short French film made by Hitchcock called Aventure Malgache. This film was also designed to raise morale and assist French resistance but the authorities were so concerned by some of the content that the film was never released.