Attacking the Devil: Harry Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime

Directors: Jacqui Morris & David Morris. Executive Producers: David Thomson, Steve Milne, Rankin. 110 mins

Winner of Special Grand Jury Prize, Sheffield DocFest 2014

The clip is of the original trailer I edited to help raise finance for the project. The music is an Audio Networks track [name to be added]

“As editor of The Sunday Times for fourteen years, Sir Harold Evans proved to be the right man in the right place at the right time. In an investigative climate all too rare by today’s standards, Evans had the freedom and resources to allow teams of journalists to work on long-term projects, including the exposure of Kim Philby as a Soviet spy. As Evans himself details in this stylish documentary, his longest and most hard fought campaign was for the victims of Thalidomide. Originally developed by the Germans in World War II to counter effect sarin gas, post-war the drug was blithely prescribed by British doctors as an antidote to morning sickness, leading to tens of thousands of children born with serious defects. The Sunday Times’ fight to win compensation for their struggling families would take more than a decade, as Evans tenaciously pursued the drug companies through the English courts and beyond.”

Carol Nahra, Sheffield DocFest programme.

“As Sunday Times editor, Mr Evans campaigned for compensation for the victims of thalidomide before fighting a legal injunction to stop the paper revealing the drug’s developers had not gone through the proper testing procedures. Jacqui Morris said: “We’re living in quite a transitional time with the press and the press are really under fire at the moment with the hacking scandals and everything that was highlighted by the Leveson Inquiry. I think what this [Thalidomide campaign] showed was the good the press can do and the importance of investigative journalism.”

The film, which received its world premiere at the Sheffield festival, will have a cinema release in the autumn.  Dawn Porter said: “We unanimously found this film to be an elegant examination of complex themes. We appreciated this film on all levels – it is a work approached with relevance and rigour, a historical film feels contemporary and engaging, blossoms like a novel, surprising when least expected.  In a field of films remarkable for their quality, we found this film to be epic in scope traversing decades and exploring big themes while revealing intimate details.  Attacking The Devil is a call to arms inviting us to examine our past as it celebrates and reminds us of the critical value of journalism.” ”

From BBC News website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-27811419


It was a story told in a way that made the heart beat faster and brought a tear to the eye,” said James Harding, the BBC’s head of news, immediately after the London premiere of Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime. He was addressing a packed audience on Wednesday evening that included many victims of thalidomide, the drug given to pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s to combat morning sickness.  I’ve seen many excellent feature films based on real cases of investigative journalism, such as All The President’s Men, Kill The Messenger and Spotlight, but Attacking the Devil, by sticking strictly to the facts and making a virtue of having witnesses speak directly to the camera, outshines them all.  In so doing, the film-makers, brother and sister David and Jacqui Morris, managed to tell a complicated story that unfolded over the best part of 50 years in such a way that it was both easy to understand and shocking to contemplate.”

Roy Greenslade, The Guardian


“It’s faultlessly told, this chronicle of a catastrophe in pharmaceutical history. Limbless children; babies with jumbled organs; desperate abortions, mercy infanticides. All this and a company, Distillers (who also produced Gordon’s gin and Johnny Walker whisky), that tried to hide from the howler of having bought a licence for a tranquilliser product never properly trialled. This is sleuthing cinema at its best. In a sane world — but there’s a question the film doesn’t make the mistake of begging — a documentary such as this would ensure that an event like that never happened again.”

Nigel Andrews, Financial Times


“It is a documentary that will enthrall, enlighten, enrage and distress. Crafted with precision and consideration for its subject matter and filled with a dense web of information, it is a well deserved and fitting testament to pioneering journalism… Attacking the Devil achieves a rare parity between the shocking revelation of material it treats and the respectful manner in which it presents personal testimony from those most grievously affected… Expansive in terms of the decades it encompasses, the scientific information it lays bare and the far-reaching bureaucratic minefield the Insight team were forced to navigate, the film still retains a touching, heartbreaking intimacy.”

Matthew Anderson, Cine-Vue


“…For a more inspirational portrayal of the power of British investigative journalism, you’re better off with the remarkable Attacking the Devil, which is released on Friday… In the film, David Mason, a parent of a daughter with Thalidomide, emotionally recalls how Evans told him “I want to show you the power of the press”, before taking him into the print room.

“He said: ‘You see that button, push it!’ And all these papers just poured off.” The editor handed Mason one of the first copies of an edition carrying the headline “Our Thalidomide Children: A Cause for National Shame.” The courageous reporting was pivotal in achieving justice for the families who had previously been ignored.  Such films give important reminders of the press as a powerful force for good.”

Ian Burrell, The Independent