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The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)

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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 574 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 5 critic

An animated dramatization of the notorious World War I German torpedoing of the ocean liner, Lusitania.

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Title: The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)

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An animated depiction of the sinking of the Lusitania: In May 1915, the liner leaves the United States, headed for Liverpool with over 2000 passengers on board. As the ship nears its destination, she is struck and severely damaged by a torpedo from a German U-boat. Even as frantic efforts to evacuate the ship are underway, another torpedo strikes the ship, leading quickly to disaster. Written by Snow Leopard

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Animation | Short

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Release Date:

20 July 1918 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Lusitania elsüllyedése  »

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1.33 : 1
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Featured in The Moving Picture Boys in the Great War (1975) See more »

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Until Cameron decides on his big disaster sequel....
28 August 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I first became aware of Windsor McCay when years ago I read those surreal dream comics he did in the first decade of the 20th Century "Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend" and "The Adventures of Little Nemo in Slumberland". I never saw anything quite like his art work (for that time - it was the age of "Mutt and Jeff" and "The Katzenjammer Kids". They just were amazing to me. Then I learned that he was the first major American cartoonist who tried his hand at motion picture cartoons. I saw part of his "prehistoric" joke, GERTIE THE DINOSAUR, in some television shows - but only part.

I had heard of his twelve minute long cartoon of the sinking of the R.M.S. Lusitania, but had no real knowledge of it. Then, last Friday, I finally saw it on the internet. As a meticulously drawn cartoon of that sad, sea atrocity of May 7, 1915 it is remarkable. As has been said on this thread before by others, when the ship is sinking we see little figures jumping off the ship and drowning in the ocean. Hideous in reality, that McCay did it shows great care in trying to seem accurate. He even shows that one of the smokestacks of the ship had fallen in the attack. McCay must have studied survivor's reports. Only one major fact he got wrong - but understandably so. He insists that there were two torpedoes fired by the U-Boat. Walter Schweiger's notebooks survived, and he insisted he only fired once. Today it is believed a second explosion occurred from either a boiler being hit, or coal dust exploding, or (this has been somewhat discredited) hidden explosives being taken to Europe for the war effort being blown up. Whatever it was, it probably blew out the side of the boat and caused the ship to sink in 18 minutes (not quite the 15 minutes McCay mentions in the cartoon).

It was meant for war propaganda - part of President Wilson's propaganda campaign under newspaperman George Creel, which made all Germans look anti-human. Today there would be a more balanced approach to the story

  • a tragedy of three governments (Britain, Germany, and the United


States) who managed to bungle matters so that 1,198 people (124 of them Americans) died by drowning or freezing or injuries from the explosions.

The real tragedy is show by photos that are superimposed of some celebrities who were lost. Most are forgotten now, but were major figures in 1915. Alfred Vanderbilt, of the great railroad family, is shown. So is Charles Frohman, the theatrical producer of plays by men like Clyde Fitch and James Barrie (including PETER PAN - in the recent film about Barrie Frohman was played by Dustin Hoffman). Also the dramatist Charles Klein (who did the libretto for Sousa's best operetta EL CAPITAN), and the editor and writer Elbert Hubbard (who wrote THE MESSAGE TO GARCIA). It is an interesting aspect that these real photos are used, but drawing the figures might have seen somewhat sacrilegious towards these famous dead people.

Unless a film about the sinking is done by James Cameron as a follow-up to TITANIC, this is the closest we will ever get to a film on the loss of the "Lucy". That is, unless one thing turns up. If you read A.A. Hoehling and Mary Hoehling's book, THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE LUSITANIA, they mention that a newspaper cameraman was on the ship who actually took motion pictures of the panic and the destruction as it went under. He said they'd be the greatest pictures ever taken.

This idiot was lost in the disaster and his camera was never found. But was he wrong? Movies of the sinking of the "Andrea Doria" are still shown and one photo of it going under won a Pulitzer Prize for the photographer (who shot from a plane). Similarly, in 1928, the S.S. Vestris sank in a storm off the Virginia Capes with the loss of 130 people. A photo of the fear crazed passengers trying to stand on the crazy slanted deck of the "Vestris" was taken, survived, and was published. It too won the Pulitzer Prize for best news photography. Maybe, if the idiot and his camera, or just his camera, survived he would be honored today as a pioneer in photographic journalism. Apparently it didn't, but we do have McCay's excellent, fairly realistic cartoon to look at instead.


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