Filmed in 1935, “Dealers in Death” documentary film offers a contemporary view of the most important makers of armaments in the world at that time. It uses a case-history format to explore the activities of these companies, which is augments by newsreel footage that shows preparation for war and a look at wars of the past. It also includes predictions about what future wars could encompass, all through the lens of pre-World War II film making.
The arms makers examined in the Dealers in Death documentary feature companies such as Vickers-Armstrong, Skoda, Krupp, Remington, and Colt. Newsreel footage is used as a counterpoint to the investigation of deals made among the companies to prolong the fighting. The reality of war and the devastation of the battlefields emphasize the sinister and cynical nature of the munitions industry.
The film presents a pacifistic, anti-war viewpoint, with the filmmakers basically arguing that the largest munitions companies in the world, chiefly companies in Europe, collaborate in their work even when their nations are at war. More interested in making money that supporting their respective national interests, the film suggests that the arms companies manipulate events to extend the duration of any given war. The film focuses its efforts on examining the substantial profits made by armament manufacturers during World War I and extrapolates as to what that might mean for coming wars.
The documentary covers topics of special interest during the times of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had requested legislation to remove profits from war.