A Year in Shorts Day 11: "London Can Take It!" (Repost)
How, exactly, does one review a propaganda short? How does one give it a star rating? And perhaps most importantly, how does one write about it while trying to stay entertaining? Well, hopefully we find the answer to all the questions and more as we discuss London Can Take It!
London Can Take It! is the first documentary short we're covering on the Great Oscar Baiter, although at the time of its release the Documentary Short category hadn't been created. Instead, the live action shorts were divided by length, with two categories being reserved for One-Reel or Two-Reel Shorts; London Can Take It! qualified for the former.
Like a large number of Oscar-nominated shorts released during the Second World War, London Can Take It! is a propaganda piece, depicting a day in London during the Blitz and released to shift popular opinion in America towards declaring war on Germany. There is a part of me that thinks perhaps the only way to truly rate a short like this is on how effective it was. But those things can be awfully hard to quantify.
No, instead the unhappy task is left to me to judge London Can Take It! on its merits as a film, something which it was never really intended to be scrutinized for. Altogether, it's perfectly fine for what it is. It gets its point across clearly and concisely, and contains some fairly striking images sprinkled throughout. Director Humphrey Jennings and Harry Watt have a lot of good footage to work with, and editor Stewart McAllister ties it all together nicely. The narration, delivered by US correspondent Quentin Reynolds, remains informative and rousing whenever it's called to be. At times, it seems as if the short might be better served if there weren't any narration. It would certainly be more cinematic, but that, of course, was a secondary concern for the filmmakers.
Ultimately, London Can Take It! is more interesting as a historical artifact than as a film. If you want to see footage of how the citizens of London lived during the Blitz, you should definitely check it out. If, however, you're looking for an artistic piece of documentary storytelling, there are other films which will suit you better.
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