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The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)

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

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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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20 July 1918 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Lusitania elpusztulása  »

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1.33 : 1
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Edited into Los comienzos de la animación (1995) See more »

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Remember the Lusitania
7 January 2005 | by See all my reviews

America had entered the war by the time Winsor McCay released this film. The sinking of the Lusitania, which carried munitions as well, swayed American sentiment, but not until Germany retracted its guarantee of not repeating the tragedy, among other issues of course, did the US ally. McCay's masterpiece was surely as worthy propaganda as posters, as there was still fight to last a few more months.

By 1918, the celluloid animation process had been invented. John Fitzsimmons and Apthorp Adams providing such as the waves with less monotony to the task, and McCay is supposed still to have created some 25,000 drawings for the production. As he had done with previous shorts, McCay produced a live-action introduction promoting his dedication and hard work. His last film, "Gertie the Dinosaur", drawn on rice paper before the advent of cel animation, was the most accomplished work of animation to date. Yet, with a cliché not to be used lightly, "The Sinking of the Lusitania" was ahead of its time--years before the assembly lines of animation studios would attain such splendor. Where Gertie was a likable, coy cartoon--one of the first personated characters in animation, this short is a moving tragedy transcending to likeness re live-action.

It likens a subjective docudrama styled as a propaganda newsreel. It contains shots impossible to have covered, impossible to have recreated in a live-action film as of then, although probably thought impossible to create in animation until McCay did it. The framing and positioning is apt, the detail meticulous. There was little need for me to screen this film again before writing this comment; images of the ocean liner steaming past the Statue of Liberty, floral smoke arising from the torpedo hits, rhapsodic falling bodies, bobbing heads and the isolated sinking in the final shot to punctuate the event, I'll always remember.


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