This is a film still to promote the event SEX & SYPHILIS AT THE CINEMA (26 Feb 2021).

NOW BOOKING: Birkbeck presents Sex & Syphilis At The Cinema

Birkbeck Institute Of The Moving Image hosts an online screening of two interwar public health films + Q&A about their social contexts (26 FEB 18:00 – FREE!).

By RADIANT CIRCUS // Twitter @radiantcircus | Instagram @radiantcircus

As if people weren’t sufficiently afeared of returning to the cinema, along comes one of the most truly horrifying sounding events in recent history (or maybe not, depending upon your predilections…). Interestingly, the event title nudges at nightmarish visions of both the Sodom of the mainstream multiplex and the Gomorrah of the indie arthouse. Which is why we signed up *immediately*…

But enough about our prurient interests… the wonderful folk at Birkbeck will actually be presenting an online film screening of two rarely seen interwar public-health films, TRIAL FOR MARRIAGE (1936) and TEST FOR LOVE (1937). Both address “the problem of venereal diseases and the important role that the new VD Service was playing in reducing disease prevalence and breaking down the social taboos and sexual double standards that deprived people — mostly women — of the knowledge to protect themselves against infection.”

These films come from a much overlooked period of film history that packaged up “uncompromising morality tales… as light entertainment, intending that audiences would identify with one of the protagonists and realise how close they themselves might have come to danger.” Such traditions date back to the origins of cinema itself and were, in part, the subject of our RADIANT CIRCUS Barker-In-Chief’s own presentation at Birkbeck back in 2019 about the conventions of itinerant cinema showmanship.

Guiding us through the moral maze of these movies – where sexual transgression followed by “a period of suffering and self-recrimination” might lead to “eventual atonement” – will be Dr Anne Hanley (Birkbeck), Dr Peter Fifield (Birkbeck) and Dr Tim Boon (Science Museum). They will host a short roundtable/Q&A discussion about the historical, social and cultural context in which these films were produced and viewed by interwar cinema goers.

Sex & Syphilis At The Cinema is hosted by BIMI and presented by Birkbeck’s Department of History, Classics and Archaeology’s Discover the Past spring 2021 events series (26 FEB 18:00-19:30 – FREE!).


Quick links to the venue/box office.

This is a film still to promote the event SEX & SYPHILIS AT THE CINEMA (26 Feb 2021).

Sex & Syphilis At The Cinema

Online screening of TRIAL FOR MARRIAGE (1936) and TEST FOR LOVE (1937) + panel Q&A (26 FEB 18:00-19:30 – FREE!).

Register online for the event. You will be emailed a link to the screenings nearer the time.




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*THE SMALL PRINT: Opinions author’s own. // As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version only. // Event dates/times/formats are subject to change by the venue/organiser. Events may already be sold out at the time of posting, so please click quickly. // We try to list as many original format screenings as we can (8 to 70MM), but sometimes formats change due to age of the print, availability, logistics etc, so please check ahead with your venue if the format is your thing. // All images are used in the spirit of fair use for reporting & review – no ownership is implied or intended / unless otherwise credited to RADIANT CIRCUS as the original rights holder. We will remove any images immediately upon request – just get in touch. // We don’t filter our listings by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should therefore be 18+. // Finally, we always try to follow The Carny Code by “not screwing up anyone else’s game”, but everyone can make mistakes… If something does go wrong, we will always do our best to put it right. //.