Bath’s big screen ‘epidemic’

A scene from the movie – filmed in the Assembly Rooms by the look of it.

While we are still grappling with the ongoing effects of the Pandemic, Rob Coles reminds us of a time – more than half a century ago – when Bathonians were also queuing up for mass vaccination.

This time though – it was a fictitious outbreak of smallpox sweeping the city – and they were extras in a film based on such an epidemic.

Rob says:

“January 2022 is the fifty-ninth anniversary of the filming of  ‘80,000  Suspects‘ that was about a smallpox outbreak in Bath. It starred Richard Johnson and Claire Bloom.

It was filmed in the bitterly cold winter of 1963, and there are many shots of Bath in snow and lots of locals as extras. 

By the sixtieth anniversary, the covid pandemic will, hopefully, be over so the film may not be so relevant.

The film is available to buy from Amazon or to rent from the British Film Institute (BFI).

There are several interesting films about Bath that can be watched for free from the BFI – including Care for the Homeless – a Civil Defence Film set in Bath in the early 1950’s. “

Thanks Rob, and a Happy New Year.

1 Comment

  1. Aah yes – I remember it well! I was only a schoolboy at the time but my parents (keen ballroom dancers) were ‘extras’ in the ball scene, filmed in the Pump Room. That one scene was filmed over several nights and my father complained afterwards about having to do the same dance, to the same music, over and over again. But at least they were paid for their efforts! And of course it wasn’t just fiction; it was based on and around the smallpox epidemic of the early ’60s and I can recall queuing with my mother outside the doctor’s surgery to be ‘jabbed’, but I don’t remember having much choice in the matter, either. Smallpox, mercifully, has now been eradicated; let’s hope that one day we will be able to say the same thing about CV-19. But somehow … Anyway, I shall now get out my ‘80,000 Suspects’ DVD, dust it off and enjoy all those wonderful shots of the Bath I knew and loved as a child!

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