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The Constant Threat (1946)


This short community service announcement raises awareness about tuberculosis and encourages people to have a free chest x-ray provided by the NSW Department of Public Health. A man on his way home from work approaches an x-ray caravan stationed on the kerb. After considering his options for the evening, including the ongoing need to support his family, he decides to have the x-ray.

Curator’s notes

This short film takes us back to postwar Australia when tuberculosis (TB) was a major health concern. It shows the approach taken by the NSW Department of Public Health to address this problem. Filmed from the perspective of an ordinary man on his way home from work, The Constant Threat targets the general population. The man in the film considers his health and his responsibilities to his family and workmates in choosing whether or not to have an x-ray.

TB no longer presents the same threat today as it did in the 1940s when contracting the disease meant taking several months off work to recover at a sanatorium. Antibiotic drugs were introduced to treat TB around the same time as the mobile X-ray caravans were increasing awareness of the need for early detection. The distinctive caravans were finally phased out in the mid-1970s when government funding for screening programs ceased in the wake of vastly reduced rates of infection.

Other public health films made for the government relate to the threat carried by mosquitoes (Poisoned Daggers, c1941), the dangers of noise pollution (Disturber of the Peace, c1945) and promote the School Medical Service (The Happy Years, c1958). At only four minutes long, this short film may have screened in cinemas to ensure it reached as wide an audience as possible. The Health Department commonly organised such screenings to mark events like Health Week.

The Constant Threat was made by Ajax Films. In the 1950s and ’60s, Ajax Films ran one of only a handful of film studios with sound stages in Sydney. The studio scenes for Wake in Fright (1970) were shot there in January 1970.